Perfect Picture Book Friday – Hardly Haunted

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

As some of you may have noticed, Halloween is coming! 🎃🧙🏿‍♀️👻

So what better time for a story about a haunted house?

This one is so cute scary! 😊

Title: Hardly Haunted

Written & Illustrated By: Jessie Sima

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, fiction, July 2021

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: being yourself, self-acceptance, holidays (Halloween)

text and illustration copyright Jessie Sima 2021, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Opening: “There was a house on a hill,
and that house was worried.”

Brief Synopsis:House has a problem. The evidence seems to suggest that she might be HAUNTED! How will she ever find a family who wants to make her a haunted home?

text and illustration copyright Jessie Sima 2021, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
text and illustration copyright Jessie Sima 2021, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Links To Resources: Haunted House Activities for Kids; Haunted Cookie Houses and Black Cat Cookies (and honestly I think you could easily do a haunted house cookie activity using chocolate graham crackers and icing if you don’t want to do all the gingerbread template baking!)

Why I Like This Book: Some kids like scary books. Mine were not in that category! 😊 So this is the kind of perfect Halloween book that I love. It hints at spookiness, and has a little suspense in the story, without being at all scary. After all, no one wants nightmares! The story is told from the point of view of the house, but there’s a delightful little black cat who appears on every page, adding to the story with her reactions. And while the house is concerned about her potential hauntedness, the art is so appealing that it makes her much more endearing than scary. Although this is a story appropriate for the Halloween season with its nod toward spookiness, it is also a story about being who you are and accepting yourself – always something kids can benefit from. Young readers will delight in this story and fall in love with the friendly little house…even if she is haunted 😊

text and illustration copyright Jessie Sima 2021, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Beautifully Me

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

I always look forward so much to seeing what you all choose each week! There are so many amazing books out there! I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a hard time choosing only one every Friday – I always want to share at least five! 😊

Today I have a choice that is different in two ways. One, it’s written by someone who is a YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok celebrity, and I typically don’t review books written by celebrities of any kind. Two, its topic is one I think is important and there should be more books of this kind. See what you think – does it strike you as a Perfect Picture Book? I’m interested in opinions!

Title: Beautifully Me

Written By: Nabela Noor

Illustrated By: Nabi H. Ali

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, September 14, 2021, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: self-esteem, healthy body image

text copyright Nabela Noor 2021, illustration copyright Nabi H. Ali 2021, Simon & Schuster

Opening: “Salaam! My name is Zubi Chowdhury.
Yesterday, I woke up before the sun.
I knew it was going to be a special day.
It was my first day of school!

I put on my blue overalls and pink shirt with fancy puffy sleeves. Amma had made it just for me in Bangladesh. I twisted my hair into two pigtails with my lucky butterfly clops and slid on my bangles.”

Brief Synopsis: Zubi, a young Bangladeshi girl, is excited for her first day of school, but when everyone around her seems suddenly focused on their size she begins to doubt herself. Will kids make fun of her because she isn’t skinny? Her family helps her to see that it is who you are that makes you beautiful, not how much you weigh.

text copyright Nabela Noor 2021, illustration copyright Nabi H. Ali 2021, Simon & Schuster

Links To Resources: glossary of Bengali words used in the text; celebrate your strengths and the strengths of those around you! What are you good at? What makes you special? What makes you YOU? 15+ Fun SElf-Esteem Activities & Games for Children and Teens (scroll down past the explanation of what self-esteem is and how parents and teachers can help foster it in children to the activities and games.)

Strengths Finder Poster from (You can download the free pdf there)

Why I Like This Book: This lovely book shows the importance of kindness and being yourself, and of celebrating all the unique characteristics that make you “beautifully you”. What makes us special is what’s on the inside – who we are – not the package it comes in. Although some reviews have faulted this book for “promoting obesity”, I feel that it promotes kindness, acceptance, and positive body image, and in today’s world where kids are bombarded with images of what they’re “supposed to look like,” it’s important for them to know that there are many different (and beautiful!) body types and that what is important is being healthy, and being a good, kind person who supports others. Every child can benefit from this book’s encouragement to find and honor their strengths.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Jessie Oliveros!


(Try to imagine that was royal trumpets! 🙂 )

(It’s pretty lucky we are all creative types who are good at imagining things 🙂 )

But trumpets!!!

Because it’s time for another Tuesday Debut – the thrilling new series where you get the inside scoop on how pre-published picture book writers became Published Picture Book AUTHORS!

What could be better?!

After dipping our toe into the Tuesday Debut experience a month ago with Christy Mihaly, we are now going full steam ahead with a new debut every Tuesday for the next 9 weeks (minus a week or two while Halloweensie is running and pre-empting all regular programming on this blog)!

And let me take this opportunity to say that if YOU have a debut picture book coming out and you’d like to be center stage here, sing out!  If the date’s free it’s yours!


Let’s have a round of applause for today’s lovely debutee (is that a word? n. one who debuts? Let’s make it a word!  Pronounce it day-bew-tay – it sounds more accomplished and French that way 🙂 )

ANYway! Queen of the Day – Jessie Oliveros!!!  (clapclapclapclapclap!!!!!)

Written by Jessie Oliveros
Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
August 28, 2018
Ages 5-9

James and Grandpa keep their memories in balloons, and James loves to hear all of Grandpa’s stories. When Grandpa’s balloons begin to float away, James tries to catch them—but he can’t. He must discover another way to reclaim Grandpa’s balloons.

SUSANNA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

JESSIE: THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was inspired by my paternal grandfather who has Alzheimer’s.


James this summer, age 92


A few summers ago, while visiting my grandparents in Kansas with my children, my thoughts turned to writing a picture book. I only knew that it would be about a boy and his grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s. I started out writing a straight forward story. I can’t say exactly when the metaphorical angle came to me. I knew balloons would be an accessible idea for children. And, when I was visiting my grandparents, I had recorded some of their histories on a voice recorder. This made their memories more of a tangible thing for me, I think. Plus, there was that act of capturing their memories before they were no longer with us. All of these things came together, and the THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was born.


(Also, one of my favorite methods of idea-seeking is to mash two unlikely ideas together, which I think my brain did out of habit when I thought of balloons while also contemplating memories.)

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

JESSIE: Once the idea of the memory balloons came to me, this story flowed fairly quickly. I had a cohesive draft in an afternoon. I definitely cannot say that about all of my picture book manuscripts! When I get an idea, I typically let it form in my mind for awhile before writing anything down. Sometimes it takes a ridiculous amount of drafts to make it a cohesive story. And that’s before any real revisions!


SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

JESSIE: THE REMEMBER BALLOONS went through my own revisions before I felt it was ready for other eyes. I sent it to a trusted critique partner and implemented her feedback. It may have been about ten revisions before my agent saw it. Once he had his hands on it, the revision process had just begun!

I advise letting a manuscript sit for awhile and coming back to it. You see things a little differently with the passage of time.

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

JESSIE: Well, when I send a child off to kindergarten, I know she’s ready. She’s been at home for five years and is itching to get out (even if there are some tears). I’ve dressed her in nice clothes, brushed her hair, & packed her bag and lunch. She’s ready for the world.

I guess it’s that way with your manuscript. You know you’ve done your best. It’s itching to get out. You feel it’s ready for the world. (There I go speaking in metaphors again.)

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

JESSIE: I submitted to about 12 agents before I found my agent. I had just finished querying a middle grade very widely, and I was a little burnt out. So, I went much slower this time. Plus, there was a bit of a personal stamp on this one which I think made me more careful with my “baby.”

I entered a Twitter Pitch contest the Friday before Christmas (#pitchmas). I pitched THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. My agent, Mike Hoogland of Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret, “liked” my pitch. I sent him my manuscript the next day. Monday, Mike contacted me via email. Tuesday we were on the phone talking representation. (BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER.) This all happened fast, but the process leading up to it was several years!

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 🙂 )
JESSIE: The manuscript was picked up about a month after we started subbing. This is quick—but I truly believe it’s all about landing on the right desk at the right time. I’ve subbed out more manuscripts since then, and it’s usually a months-long process! Fun story: I received the offer for THE REMEMBER BALLOONS the day after I brought my fourth baby home from the hospital (and we’d just closed on a house—ha!). It was a very full few days. I knew Simon and Schuster had been considering it, but I still had the surreal, heart-dropping moment when I read the email from Mike.


SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?
JESSIE: I actually received my contract on my birthday! Ha! I didn’t do any special signing pictures or anything, but it was a bit of a dual celebration. Interesting fact: there is a delay between offer and contract signing. Mine was about two months. Offer in March. Contract in May.


SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?
JESSIE: I didn’t know what to expect! I did a lot of internet research on the terms, and I had a good agent to answer all of the questions. I would say that the terms were better than I could have hoped for for a debut author.


SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

JESSIE: I edited the manuscript with my acquiring editor, Christian, before he switched houses. He helped me hone the manuscript into what it is today. The structure of it remains close to the original. But Christian helped me dig deeper into the manuscript—most notably, he encouraged me to find James’ voice and to re-examine the silver balloon. He helped give it breath!

After that, Justin took on THE REMEMBER BALLOONS. He helped me pare it down some. We cut unnecessary phrasing as well as parts that were redundant with the illustrations.

I feel so lucky to have worked with both these editors—both great, visionary people and positive forces in children’s publishing.

SUSANNA: Can you share your experience of the illustration process?
JESSIE: When I first saw the sketches, I was very happy with the look and style. The people that Dana drew were actually very similar to how I had envisioned them as I drafted—sweet, sketchy, dreamy. I saw the sketches and art at several stages along the way. The combined visions of Lucy, the art director for THE REMEMBER BALLOONS, and Dana really superseded anything I could have ever dreamed of myself. There were a few things I suggested, tweaks really. I asked that a berry basket be added to the yellow balloon memory, for instance. I felt my input was listened to and taken seriously. But I mean, just look at the art.



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

JESSIE: The trade reviews for THE REMEMBER BALLOONS was sent to Dana and me in advance. That means we had to hold in the news of our Kirkus star before sharing it on social media! One thing I didn’t know before that I know now—your editor may send all the trade reviewers your book, but that doesn’t mean they are all going to review it.

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

JESSIE: As I mentioned earlier, my baby was only a few days old when I received an offer. She’s 2 ½ now! I didn’t expect it to take that long, but those 2 ½ years were full. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on to design and promote the book. It takes a lot of time, and I think it was worth it!


Jessie 4

SUSANNA: If your book has been out for at least one statement cycle, has it earned out yet?

JESSIE: My book just released a few weeks ago so I’m a longways off from that!
SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

JESSIE: I’ve used social media quite a bit to promote my book. I’ve done a few interviews like this. I’m about to have launch events in two different cities. Honestly, I think the best thing for your book is word of mouth! I had a friend tell me the other day that her friend had seen someone talking about my book on Instagram. Being that many degrees removed from it felt pretty awesome!

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

JESSIE: I started writing seriously when my son was two. 7 ½ years later I sold my picture book! That’s ten years from outset of journey to actual book.

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

JESSIE: This journey, like life, is unpredictable. It’s filled with mountains and cliffs and valleys. One thing I’ve learned (and am still learning!) is to step outside of it. Don’t let the rejections and the bad reviews cast a shadow over the things and people that give you joy.


My “book offer” baby today at 2 ½ years old.

Twitter: @JessieOliveros
Instagram: @jessieoliveros

That is wonderful advice, Jessie!  Many thanks for joining us today and sharing your knowledge with us.  You are the second author in a row to point out that your first sale was many years in the making.  I hope everyone feels buoyed up by the knowledge that, if you’re feeling discouraged because it’s taking you awhile to get published, this is a marathon, not a sprint for ALL of us in the picture book world.  And though it may be taking more time than we’d like to cross the finish line, at least we’re surrounded by friends all the way ❤

If you have questions for Jessie, you may ask them in the comment section and if she has time she may be able to answer 🙂

Thank you all for joining today’s debut!  And maybe there’s someone in your life who would enjoy a copy of THE REMEMBER BALLOONS… 🙂