Perfect Picture Book Friday – Big Friends

Good Morning, my friends!

I guess the title of this post should be Perfect Picture Book Sunday since I’m so far behind.  I sincerely apologize!

I was waiting on a google form to try out a new way of doing the PPBF links, and then I fell ill… which I REALLY try not to do but occasionally even I can’t avoid it apparently – I thought my magical powers were stronger than that.  I must not have had enough chocolate last week 🙂

So anyway, here I am, late, still without the google form, but I’ll add in all the links I know about at the bottom for you, and anyone I’ve missed can try out the linky list for this week.  And I thank everyone who so kindly and sweetly emailed or FB messaged me to ask if I was okay.  It’s one of the loveliest things about this kidlit community – how genuinely everyone cares!  I was really touched ❤

Big Friends

Title: Big Friends

Written By: Linda Sarah

Illustrated By: Benji Davies

Henry Holt & Co, January 2016, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, loneliness, imagination, play

Opening: “Two cardboard boxes, big enough to sit in, hide inside.  Birt and Etho take them out each day, climb Sudden Hill, and sit in them.

Sometimes they’re kings, soldiers, astronauts.  Sometimes they’re pirates sailing wild seas and skies.

Brief Synopsis: (From the jacket copy) “Birt and Etho are best friends. Together they play outside in big cardboard boxes. Sometimes they’re kings, soldiers, astronauts. Sometimes they’re pirates sailing wild seas and skies. But always, always they’re Big friends. Then one day a new boy arrives, and he wants to join them. Can two become three?”

Links To Resources: 31 Things To Do With  A Cardboard Box (yes it’s a Buzzfeed link, but there are photos and how-to tutorials for all 31 and they’re so much fun!!!); 101 Things To Do With A Cardboard Box (never mind 31! :)); Make Your Own Friendship Bracelets (video tutorial)

Why I Like This Book: This is a lovely book, filled with the friendship and imaginative play of two boys who get along and understand each other… until a third boy shows up and threatens the balance not because he’s difficult or unpleasant – quite the opposite – but because he’s new and changes the dynamic.  It’s a story about struggling to incorporate someone new without losing the old.  It is not sentimental or sappy in any way, but I promise you will say “Aw!” on the last page 🙂  It’s an important story because integrating new friendships is a skill and a struggle that every child faces at some point.  The pull toward someone new and fun that calls to one member of a friendship, the jealously that threatens the other… or sometimes just the fear that things will change, a true friend will be lost, the friendship will not be the same.  Don’t miss this one!

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

Here are this week’s links that I know about:

  1. The Remarkable Story Of George Moses Horton
  2. The Rooster Prince Of Breslov
  3. Grandfather Twilight
  4. The Queen’s Hat
  5. Maya’s Blanket – La Manta De Maya
  6. Frankencrayon
  7. An Insider’s Guide To Football
  8. Delivering Justice


PPBF bloggers whose links I didn’t have, please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!  If you want to see the list, even if you’re not entering a link of your own, you have to use the “Click Here” button below.

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

And, since this post is late, I hope everyone is all ready to go for the Valentiny Contest which opens tomorrow (see HERE for guidelines and HERE for prize list update), and for which I will hopefully get my sample written today!!!  I am so excited for this contest.  I think it’s going to be tons of fun with all the amazing prizes!

Have a wonderful Sunday, everyone! 🙂

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?


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! 🙂

The ContestDraw/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 :)):

 – The Three Wiggly Worms Bluff by Wendy Greenley
 – Goldilockup by Mike Allegra
 – Goldibawks And The Three Pairs by Dawn Young
 – The Sweetie Witch by Pen Avey
 – The Princess And The Stinky Cheese by Lauri Meyers
 – Mongoose’s Holi Party by Darshana Khiani
 – The “Princess” And The Pete by Jennifer Caritas
 – The 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 🙂
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:

 – is the picture readable to a young audience,
 – how well does it show the character(s) and
 – is the character(s) appealing (character development),
 – does it make you want to read the story,
 – originality
 – skill.

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!!!

 – Second Prize – a $50 gift certificate to Dick Blick Art Materials
 – Third, Fourth & Fifth Prize will be winner’s choice of one of the following books:
      – Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz

 – 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!!! 🙂

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!)

Perfect Picture Book Fridays Are Back! – With A Giveaway! – Little Miss Muffet

Let the joyous news be spread!

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are back!!

And we’re starting off with tons of fun!!!  A great book and a giveaway!

Today, I am thrilled to be sharing this hot-off-the-presses new book from the one and only Iza Trapani!

Title: Little Miss Muffet
Written & Illustrated By: Iza Trapani
Sky Pony Press, September 10, 2013, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-7

Themes/Topics: bravery, positional and directional words

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

All through the room,
She zipped and she zoomed
And looked for a place to hide.
A mouse came to find her;
It scurried behind her.
The dainty Miss bolted outside.

Brief Synopsis:  Poor Miss Muffet is frightened by a spider.  But as she rushes to find a place to hide, she’s frightened by a mouse!  Running from the mouse she is frightened by a frog!  No matter where she runs, she seems to find something to be afraid of.  What is the poor girl to do?

Just for fun, here’s an interior page:)

copyright Iza Trapani 2013 all rights reserved

Links To Resources:  Iza has created many wonderful resources for this book which I’m sure will be available soon on her website, but for now you can get them my emailing her at iza[at]izatrapani[dot]com and asking for them.  (I had hoped to include them here, but blogger won’t allow uploads of PDFs!  I will refrain from sharing my feelings about blogger since this is a kid-friendly blog :))  The resources include a Miss Muffet Coloring Page, a Miss Muffet Hidden Animals challenge, a Miss Muffet Maze, and a page that allows you to make bookmarks.  The book also includes many positional and directional words which makes it excellent for preschool!  Please enjoy the book trailer HERE.  And Iza writes a wonderful blog which you can visit HERE.

Why I Like This Book: If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading Iza’s books, I can’t recommend them highly enough.  Most of them are based on familiar, beloved songs – the kind all children and parents love to sing together – including Twinkle Twinkle Little StarBaa Baa Black SheepRow Row Row Your BoatI’m A Little TeapotJingle Bells,  Itsy Bitsy Spider (celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year having sold over a million copies!) and many more.  Iza takes the basic verses and spins them into delightful, original stories that are a joy to read (and sing :)) aloud.  Her accompanying art is warm and inviting, a safe-haven for young children, full of comfort, perfect for bedtime or anytime.  Miss Muffet is another brilliant addition to her list and a must-have!

If you’d care to purchase a copy, here is a helpful link: Amazon link:

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

Today, since we are celebrating the release of Iza’s book, she has been kind enough to offer a signed copy as a giveaway!!!  One lucky commenter is going to be a winner 🙂  All you have to do to qualify is leave a comment in which you share your choice of the following things:

1. Name something that YOU are very afraid of!
2. Tell us your favorite Iza Trapani title and why you love it!
3. If you’re feeling writerly and inspired, write your own verse of Miss Muffet in which she is afraid of something besides the traditional spider!

You may do one of them or all of them, whatever you like!

Please leave your comment by Sunday September 15 at 5 PM EDT.  At that time, a winner will be selected randomly by  The winner will be announced Monday along with a very special post!  Which you’ll just have to wonder about.  All weekend 🙂

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below.  I can’t wait to come and visit you all after our long summer hiatus!

Have a terrific weekend, everyone!

Oh Susanna! – Does A Similar Book Mean I Should Not Submit My Story?

Good Monday, Everyone!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

I finally put my annuals in because, after a week of over 90 degree weather, we are hoping the danger of frost (which we had last weekend) is past!  Who is in charge of the weather around here?  It’s nuts! 🙂

Of course, given my reputation as The Black Thumb Of Poughquag, my plants will probably be looking like this before long 🙂

Also (thanks to Beth Stilborn and Laura Miller) I MAY have a new plan for Perfect Picture Books which would make the list easier to search and easier to update.  Keep your fingers crossed!  It will probably take me the whole summer to put it together, but it will be great if it works! 🙂

Today, after many weeks in which we have been distracted by other things, we have an Oh Susanna question!

Oh Susanna!

I am currently working to get my first picture book published. I have been studying the market and in doing so I came across a recently published book that looks somewhat similar to mine. Should I be discouraged? Will anyone be interested in publishing my book if there is already one with a similar topic in the market? 

Sincerely, Clueless 

I think this is an excellent question.

Although we are all told to be original, there are some who say there are no new stories.  New baby and sibling rivalry and fear of the dark and first day of school and wanting a pet, etc., etc., etc. have already been told.

This may be true.  But if you spend five minutes in the library or bookstore, you’ll see (using new baby as an example) Julius The Baby Of The World, Not Yet Rose, The Best Kind Of Baby, Penny Loves Pink, A Baby Sister For Frances, The New Baby, On Mother’s Lap, Hello Baby, Babies Don’t Eat Pizza, Waiting For Baby, Peter’s Chair… I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea – there are LOTS of picture books about kids getting a new sibling.

Pretty much any topic/idea/theme you choose to write about will have been done before in some way.  The trick is to make it your own – to put a spin on it that hasn’t been done so that your story is new and fresh even if it deals with a tried and true topic.  If you were to read those 10 books listed above, you’d see that although they all revolve around the arrival of a new baby, they are all different stories.  In Julius The Baby Of The World, Lilly is jealous and doesn’t have much nice to say about her new brother until her friends criticize him and she rushes to his defense.  In Not Yet Rose, Rose worries that she won’t like being a big sister or that the baby might not like her.  In The Best Kind Of Baby, Sophie imagines all the kinds of babies her mother could have, thinking puppies and monkeys and fish would be much more fun than a human baby.  As you can see, those are all very different types of stories, which address different aspects of getting a new sibling and have different moods and atmospheres.

In addition to trying to put your own unique spin on your story, you will also want to research the publishing houses you plan to submit to.  For example, (sticking with the idea of new babies), does the house already have a new baby book?  How old is it?  Is it still in print?  Has it sold well and become a classic or is it lesser known?  Is the actual story it tells similar to yours (e.g. is it a brother waiting for a sister and yours is too?  Or is it a jealousy story and yours is too?)?

A house that has a book very similar to yours will probably not want to compete with itself.  But another house may be happy to have it… overjoyed if they love it and think they can outsell other houses’ books on that topic 🙂

If you find that your story really is too similar to one or more books already out there, think about ways you could tweak your story to make it different.  Could you tell it from a different point of view?  Could you change the focus slightly?  Could you make it a sister waiting for a brother instead of a brother waiting for a sister?  Could you place it in a very unusual setting or time period, or make it about an animal family instead of a human family?  Try stretching your idea in different directions and see where you end up 🙂

I hope that answers your question and helps you out a bit!  And as always I’d be grateful to have all our readers chime in with their thoughts and experience in the matter!

Have a magical Monday everyone! 🙂

Oh Susanna – What About Word Count?

Well, we made it.

Out to Ohio by way of Pennsylvania and West Virginia (thanks for that Jo-Jilly) and back again (the right way thank you very much because sometimes I just have to pull rank!)

In Ohio we saw a building shaped like a giant picnic basket – I kid you not!  I was driving, and hence unable to engage in photography, but luckily my copilot happened to be awake just then and had his iPhone and the picture came out.  Which is amazing because we were traveling at approximately 65 mph (which was the speed limit and when I say approximately I mean we were barely over it so don’t raise those eyebrows at me :))  He took the photo out Princess Blue Kitty’s window.  Check it out!

It is not everyday you see a building shaped like a giant basket!

So now, see?  I have added to your trivia fund.  Next time you need an icebreaker or a scintillating topic of conversation, you can say, “Did you know that there’s a building shaped like a giant picnic basket in Newark, Ohio?”and thoroughly dazzle and amaze your companion.

We also saw this statue (which I LOVE) in front of the library in Granville – a boy, a girl, and a little dog…

Isn’t it just the perfect statue for outside a library?

Also I can highly recommend Audible’s recording of all of James Herriot’s books up through The Lord God Made Them All which is what we are up to after all these drives (yes, we have driven through the unabridged All Creatures Great And Small, All Things Bright And Beautiful, and All Things Wise And Wonderful… as well as The DaVinci Code and about half of Divergent which we had to leave unfinished because the narrator was deemed whiny by my son, who also felt there was too much romance involved… luckily I had already read it :))

Also, in case you were wondering (and I know you were :)), Snickers is still hands down the best candy bar ever.

So now that we’ve got that settled, let’s move on to Oh Susanna, which it feels like we haven’t done in an age!

Today’s excellent question comes to us from the lovely Cathy, and she says:

I have an Oh Susanna! question – is there a ’rounding’ rule when adding your word count to a query?  As in, my manuscript is 509 words.  Or perhaps 497 words.  Do I say OH SUSANNA’S STORY is a 500 word fairy tale for readers ages 3-6?  Or should I use the exact number of words per my Microsoft Word for Windows count?  Just wondered if there is an word count convention that I should know.  

My personal feeling on the matter is that Microsoft Word makes it very easy to establish your word count, and it doesn’t take much room at the top of our manuscript to pop it in there, so why not?  I always include it.  But I don’t think it matters too much if you round slightly… you’re just not likely to get away with passing off your 1506 word manuscript as “about 500 words” 🙂

But I figured an authority on the matter wouldn’t hurt, so I asked editor Erin Molta, our friend from Would You Read It 🙂  She said:

Word counts are not that necessary for picture books UNLESS there is a certain restriction. Word counts are needed for easy readers because each level determines how many words. Though it doesn’t hurt to mention word counts in the query letter—only because some editors may be looking for something short and sweet to read right then . . . It doesn’t matter—unless there are guidelines—if the word count is exact or not. Though since WORD does give it to you fairly easily, it’s not hard to do so.

So there you have it.  What does everyone else do?  Do you include your word count or not?  Do you give the exact count, or round?  Has anyone had a different experience with word counts than Erin or I? Have you ever seen a building shaped like a giant basket?  Or anything else interesting?  Please share! 🙂

Have a wonderful day and beginning of your week, everyone! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – A Little Book Of Sloth

Happy Friday, Everyone!

The book I have to share today is a little different and very cute and fun.  For starters, how can you not love a book that’s called A LIttle Book Of Sloth? 🙂

A Little Book Of Sloth
Written By: Lucy Cooke
Photographed By: Lucy Cooke
Margaret K. McElderry Books, March 2013, Non-Fiction

Suitable For Ages: there is no recommendation from the publisher – the photographs are suitable for all ages, the text has some higher level vocabulary, but I think would be enjoyed by ages 5 and up.

Themes/Topics: nature, animals, sloths

Opening: “It all started with Buttercup.  Baby Buttercup turned up on Judy’s doorstep as a tiny orphan.  She was a few weeks old and desperately needed a new mom. Buttercup’s new home provided more slouching opportunities than your average tree branch.  So she chose the best seat in the house and decided to stay.”

Brief Synopsis: This is a photographic story about a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica.  Wonderful photos of the many sloths-in-residence are accompanied by anecdotes and facts about sloths.

Links To Resources: Aviarios del Caribe sloth sanctuary website, the Sloth Appreciation Society, meet the sloths on video

Why I Like This Book: I don’t know about you, but I’ve never read a book about sloths before.  This book is beautiful, fun, and educational.  Written by Lucy Cooke, a British filmmaker, zoologist, photographer and founder of the Sloth Appreciation Society, it highlights this lesser-known animal in an irresistible way.  Ms. Cooke takes pains to mention at the end of the book that sloths are wild animals, not pets, and that children (and adults :)) can show their appreciation for these sweet creatures by joining the Sloth Appreciation Society.  A great choice for the animal lovers in your life 🙂

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

PPBF bloggers, please add your post specific link to the list below so we can all come see what delights you’ve picked out for us this week!

Have a great weekend, everyone! 🙂

Oh Susanna – How Do You Know What Books Are Already Published In The Picture Book Market?

Happy Monday, Everyone!

First off, before we do anything, I’d like to give a virtual high five to Julie Foster Hedlund whose debut storybook app A Troop Is  Group Of Monkeys is now officially published!  Woo-hoo!

Released yesterday from Little Bahalia Publishing, this delightful app is both an entertaining story and an education in collective nouns for animal groups.  Beautiful illustrations bursting with color (created by Pamela Baron) complement the engaging text, along with plenty of fun interactive add-ons… wait until you see the skunk 🙂 … and the story is sung to a catchy tune by Tim McCanna.  You can view the trailer HERE and purchase it on iTunes HERE.  Congratulations, Julie!!! 🙂

I will wait while you all skip on over to iTunes App Store and purchase your copy 🙂

Alrighty then, onward to our topic of conversation for today, which is an Oh Susanna question.

Cheryl asks, “Oh, Susanna, could you please give some pointers on how to research what’s already out there in the picture book market?

Well, Cheryl, I’ll be happy to give it the old college try :), although I am the first to admit that I don’t feel like an authority on the subject, so I hope lots of our devoted readers will chime in with their knowledge.

The short answer is, a lot of things have already been done, so no matter what you write, you’ll have to put a new spin on it – your own spin 🙂

But there are places you can look.

For the low, low price of only $400 (EEK!) you can purchase the 2012 Subject Guide To Children’s Books In Print – hardcover and 3154 pages chock full of information that is mostly up-to-date for about 10 minutes 🙂  But unless you’re independently wealthy and have a really sturdy desk to hold up a book that size you’re probably better off just going to the local public library and using theirs 🙂

The Subject Guide to Books In Print is available at most larger libraries in the reference section.  The Subject Guide To Children’s Books In Print and Children’s Books In Print may also be available.

From Greyhouse Publishing’s Website:

Children’s Books In Print: “Children’s Books In Print®, now in its 43nd edition, is the go-to source for locating children’s and young adult titles in the US.

  • Volume 1, the Title Index, provides immediate access to over 250,000 children’s books from over 18,000 US publishers
  • Entries include title, author, translator, illustrator, photographer, edition, LCC number, series information, pages, binding, grade range, year of publication, price, ISBN, publisher and imprint
  • Volume 2, the Author & Illustrator Index, features more than 223,000 contributors, including photographers
  • Publisher Name Index and Wholesaler & Distributor Name Index, with complete contact information for all listed publishers, distributors and wholesalers”

The Subject Guide To Children’s Books In Print: “A natural complement to Children’s Books In Print®, Subject Guide to Children’s Books In Print® is a valuable tool when expanding children’s literature collections and new curriculum areas.

  • Subject Index with over 347,000 titles classified under over 9,500 Library of Congress Subject Headings, from Actors and Actresses to Zoo Animals and everything in between
  • Entries include title, author, translator, illustrator, photographer, edition, LCC number, series information, pages, binding, grade range, year of publication, price, ISBN, publisher and imprint
  • Publisher Name Index and Wholesaler & Distributor Index, with complete contact information makes easy work for your acquisitions department”

So there is a lot of information there.

Another useful avenue of research is publishing house websites.  They all have sections that list their current titles and their backlists.  It is time-consuming, but worthwhile, and something you’ll be doing anyway when the time comes to research houses for submission.

In terms of what publishers might be looking for, SCBWI has a section in their bulletin that addresses that, and other publications like the CBI Newsletter and the Children’s Writer (issued by the Institute Of Children’s Literature) frequently post subjects/topics/specific things that agents and editors have mentioned they would be interested in seeing in both book and magazine markets.  If editors are looking for something, it’s a good bet there’s nothing like it currently in print.

Another place you can look is Amazon.  I know.  They’re taking over the world. 🙂  But they do have a huge data base of books.  You can search by a title you’re thinking of using and see if other books with that title already exist.  You can search by subject matter within children’s books and see what comes up that might be similar to your idea.  And then underneath the book you’ve chosen to look at there is usually a long list of similar books that people also viewed or purchased when they looked at that book, so you can often find related items easily.

You should always check the publication date.  A book that is similar to your story but is 20 years old and not a well-known classic may be ready for a fresh new version.

I think, in the end, you have to write the stories you want to write to the best of your ability.  Then research publishing houses that might be interested in the type of story you’ve written.  Go to the library or bookstore and read lots of picture books and take note of who publishes books similar to yours.  Then go on their websites and read through their current and backlist titles.  Do they already have your book, or something so similar that they’d be competing with their own list by purchasing yours?  Hopefully you can find a house that might fit your manuscript that hasn’t already published a similar story.  If not, you may discover ways you can tweak your story to make it different from what’s already out there.

I hope that’s a little bit helpful.  Unfortunately there’s no quick, easy method I know of for accomplishing this task.  But I’d love to hear from readers about how they go about this, whether they know any tricks of the trade, or know any better ways of doing this!  Please, readers, share your thoughts!!!

Thanks for a great question, Cheryl.

Have a fabulous Monday, everyone, especially those of you who have the day off 🙂

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Puffling Patrol by Ted and Betsy Lewin (with a giveaway!)

Good Morning, everyone!  I hope you all had excellent weekends!  In case you’re dragging a little at the thought of Monday-after-the-Olympics-are-over, I have a special treat for you 🙂

It just so happens that today is my mom’s birthday!  To celebrate, we shall have cake!  Of course I can’t use pictures from google images anymore, and I don’t have a photo of the actual cake at this writing because I haven’t baked it yet, so you will have to use your imaginations just a little…

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doesn’t this look like a cake?

Please help yourself to as much as you like – it can be any flavor you want 🙂

Not only do I have cake for you, but a few weeks ago, maybe because of Perfect Picture Books, I got an email from Lee & Low Books.  Would I like to review a new book from Ted and Betsy Lewin?  But of course I would!  I’m afraid I’m not as familiar with Ted’s work, although of course I’ve heard of him, but I think we all know Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type illustrated by Betsy! 🙂

So here’s a little peek at their new book, which came out this spring but is of special interest now because of the topic – the rescue of pufflings as they head for the sea each August.

used with kind permission of publisher

Puffling Patrol
Written & Illustrated by: Ted & Betsy Lewin
Published by: Lee & Low Books, March 2012
56 pages
Recommended for: grades 2-4/ages 7-10
Theme/Topic: puffling rescue off the coast of Iceland, nature, caring for wild animals in need, kindness
Opening:  “It is the end of August.  Soon the adult puffins will be gone to spend the winter in the cold northern seas.  The pufflings in the dark burrows will then be on their own.”

In April, hundreds of thousands of puffins flock to the Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland.  They nest in the cliffs, digging burrows into the soil where they lay their eggs, then hatch and raise their chicks, called pufflings.  By August, the babies are ready to leave the burrows and head out to sea, but some of them become confused by the lights of the town and land in the streets instead.  Puffins are too chunky to take off without wind and space, so if the babies land in town they can’t get back to sea by themselves – they need help.  The children of the Puffling Patrol search the streets, finding the frightened babies, placing them in cardboard boxes in their homes overnight, and returning them to the ocean in the morning.

baby puffling
image used by permission of publisher

This story is about Ted and Betsy’s experience visiting the Westman Islands and witnessing the puffling patrol firsthand.

rescued pufflings safe in a cardboard box
image used by permission of publisher

The book is full of interesting information about the birds, their habitat, and the annual patrol that keeps the pufflings safe.  Some of the paintings are whimsical, very reminiscent of the style of Click Clack Moo.  Others are beautiful watercolors showing the wild, rocky terrain and the wide sky, so lovely you can almost feel the wind.  The book is heavy on text, so perhaps not the best choice for very young listeners or those with limited attention spans, but excellent for readers interested in animals and the natural world.  It would be a nice addition to elementary school study of migration, wild birds, animal rescue, or nature, and an interesting read for children interested in these subjects.  In addition to the story, there is a nice introduction which explains where and why the story takes place, and several pages of facts at the end about Atlantic Puffins, the volcano of 1973 which formed part of the island, and puffins today, along with a bibliography, a glossary, and a pronunciation guide.  I think this book would make a lovely addition to any school or home library.

image used by permission of publisher

Lee & Low was kind enough to send me a hardcover review copy, which, now that I’ve reviewed I have permission to give away to one lucky reader!  If you would like it, please leave a comment below saying why you’re interested or who you’d like it for. will be responsible for picking a winner Thursday evening (August 16) so please leave your comment before then!

Enjoy your cake 🙂 and tune in Wednesday for Would You Read It – the July pitch pick and Sharron with the 53rd pitch as we swing into year 2!  And now, I’m off to Pennsylvania with a banjo on my knee 🙂

Self-Publishing Mini-Series – Meet Rita Borg

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to the lovely and talented Rita Borg!  Thank you so much for joining us, Rita!

First, a little background.  Rita says,

I started writing when I was 9 years old. I loved the Waltons and Little House on the Prarie. John boy and Laura set me off writing. But when my 7 year old sister died of cancer, I could not pick up a pen. I was 23 then. But after my third child was born, my husband told me of a writing competition he found on the local newspaper. I entered but I did not win. But the editor called me up and told me how much she enjoyed my essay about the murder of a toddler in England. She asked if would I like to start writing articles for the paper? I said yes and my writing career started.I have been writing and learning about writing ever since.
I was educated at Blessed Sacrament School and St. Jean Baptiste High School in New York and studied children’s writing with the Institute of Children’s and Teen’s Literature in Connecticut. I also read for a diploma in child psychology at the European Institute of Education. I reside on the Mediterranean island of Malta, where I regularly perform storytelling and creative writing workshops in schools across the country. I am also a freelance writer for local magazines and newspapers, a mother of three, and have published four picture books aimed at early readers, as well as an anthology of short stories for older children. My books have received multiple printings as well as peer-acclaim and recognition at the Malta National Annual Literary Awards. My last book, Don’t Cross the Road, Holly!, was chosen as the best 2009 Children’s Book in English. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators of the USA, as well as its chapter in the British Isles.

Now then, onto the interview and all those helpful tidbits you guys are eagerly awaiting 🙂

SLH: Did you try the traditional publishing route?  What was your experience?
RB: I have been studying the craft of writing for the past 12 years. Lately, I got in contact with an editor. She helped me out with several picture book manuscripts. I chose the best one and sent it off to 20 publishers and some agents in England. Most of the publishers I contacted wrote back saying how charming the book was, or it is a great story, or it would be great illustrated. Yet, no one wanted to take a chance of publishing it. Is it because I live so far away in Malta? So I decided to do it myself.

SLH:What made you decide to pursue self-publishing?
RB: I already have two published books but they are in the Maltese language. The publishers here in Malta obviously want to promote their language. However I grew up in New York City, my first language is English. So, I self-published three bilingual Maltese English picture books. But they could only be distributed in Malta which has a population of only half a million people. So I started thinking about self publishing outside the country with a company like CreateSpace.
Rita’s office

SLH: How did you go about self-publishing? (specific details about how you researched and located the company you went with would be great)
RB: I didn’t do that much research to be honest. I heard about CreateSpace; many authors were using it, so I decided for my first book it would be good to go with the experts.

SLH: Did you hire an editor?
RB: Hiring an editor is a must. I had one during the writing of the story and hired another one through the company and was part of the publishing package.

SLH: How did you choose your illustrator?  How did you work out paying the illustrator and did you have a contract?  Did you have a lot of back and forth discussions with your illustrator about the art?
RB: The illustrations are again part of the package if you so wish. CreateSpace sent me four names of illustrators and I chose the one that I saw best fitted the theme of my book. I chose two that I really liked. My first choice was available to work and in six weeks she drew all the illustrations. There was one or two which I changed some aspects of the pictures. But I was lucky, I had little to change and I loved the simple, colourful illustrations at the start.

SLH: Did you hire a cover designer or did your illustrator design the cover?
RB: I hired both. The cover designer was again part of the package which I purchased. The cover designer sent me 3 different types of covers. I especially liked one and then the illustrator drew it. I just added more hay in the nest under the egg for comfort’s sake 🙂

SLH: What formats is your book available in?  Hardcover?  Paperback?  E-book?  Print-on-demand?
RB: So far, my book is only as a Print-On-Demand paperback picture book. I first want to see how well the book sells before I turn it into an e-book. Self-publishing can be quite expensive if you are not careful with your money.

SLH: How have you gone about marketing your book?  What has been most successful?
RB: Along with advertising on Facebook, being interviewed here is my first attempt at marketing. I still have lots of work to do! I need to contact reviewers, give giveaways, and do more interviews. It’s going to be fun. Also, if I had been traditionally published, I still would need to market myself. So I am learning a great deal from all of this.

SLH: Do you do school/library visits or library/bookstore readings/signings?  How did you go about getting them?  How have sales been in relation to those visits?
RB: I visit libraries and schools all the time in Malta. I am a storyteller by trade. This is the best way to sell books. It is the personal touch rather then a book on the shelf. I plan to do a lot of visits to bookshops, libraries and schools for my book Meg the Egg, too.

SLH: What advice would you give other authors who are thinking about self-publishing?
RB: JUST DO IT! Don’t let the people at the gateways of publishing ruin your dreams.

SLH: Any particular pitfalls to avoid?
RB: Check and check everything you do. Don’t be flippant; be diligent. No one cares about your book more than you do.

SLH: Anything else you’d like to say? 🙂
RB: This was an adventure, a scary, intrepid adventure but if my book sells and the children love reading it, it is very worth it when you have given up on traditional publishing.

Thank you so much, Rita!

If you’d like to find Rita online, you can visit her Website and like her on Face Book.

And, as if all that information weren’t enough, Rita has kindly offered to be available to answer any questions you might have so fire away, AND she is giving away a copy of Meg The Egg (which is very cute – I have read it!) to one lucky winner!

All you have to do is leave a comment saying why you’d like the book.  And if you want to be nice and “like” Rita on Face Book while you’re here, that would be lovely but we are not twisting any arms 🙂

And that, my friends, concludes our mini-series on self-publishing.  I know some of the posts were long – our authors were so very generous with their knowledge and expertise!  I hope you all learned a lot, and that those of you who were previously hesitant about self-publishing now feel more confident and prepared to take it on!