Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Color Collector

It’s another beautiful (I’m ignoring the mid-April snow!) Perfect Picture Book Friday, and I have a wonderful book to share with you today!

I was lucky enough to get to “talk” briefly with the author, Nicholas Solis, and he kindly shared his inspiration for the book which I think you’ll all be interested in hearing. I have added his thoughts below in the “Links To Resources” section.

But let’s start by having a look at this gorgeous book!

Title: The Color Collector

Written By: Nicholas Solis

Illustrated By: Renia Metallinou

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, fiction, April 15, 2021

Suitable For Ages: 6-9 years

Themes/Topics: friendship, kindness, empathy

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

Opening: “She was new.
She was quiet.
I think she was lonely.

That was the day I met Violet.

I was new once.
I said hello.

She smiled a little, I think.
But she was quiet.”

Brief Synopsis: A boy offers a kind word to a lonely new girl, and as the days pass and they walk home together, he notices all the colorful things she picks up and wonders why. She shares a little of her life with him, and their friendship blossoms, a wonderful thing for both of them.

Links To Resources: activities provided by author Nick Solis:

I asked Nick about his inspiration for writing this beautiful book and this was his reply:

“I was inspired by a piece of art by Graham Franciouse. The painting is of a little girl collecting leaves, and she had the saddest eyes I had ever seen. 

This story speaks to me in so many ways, but the main impact is that idea that even a kind word from one person can change another person’s entire life. My parents divorced when I was young and we moved around a lot. In the middle of 7th grade, I had to start a new school. Middle school is tough for anyone, but an overweight, shy kid starting in the middle of the year didn’t have a chance. The rest of that year was tough for me, and I was determined to go live with my father after 8th grade. But at the beginning of the school year one kid said hi to me. He invited me into his conversation with him and his friends and it changed my life. I became more open, funny, and creative. I made a ton of friends that year and stayed with my mom throughout middle school and high school. Most of the kids I met in high school are still my closest friends 25 years later. So all it takes is just one person to show a little kindness and their world can change. That’s what I hope to share with this book.” 

Why I Like This Book: This poignant story of friendship, beautifully told with an economy of words but with a real depth of emotion, shows just how much power we all have to make a difference in someone’s life with nothing more than a kind word or gesture. You can never know how much a kindness might mean to someone. The story is simple and lovely, and the art is gorgeous and complements it perfectly. I love how the opening spread is all shades of gray (please see above) and the last spread with both children in it (which is the second to last in the book) has come to life with color.

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

In between, at the moment when their friendship really begins to take shape, Violet shows the boy the color and beauty of the life she left behind, which is how he begins to understand her.

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

And the very last page shows how he has taken her words and experience to heart and begun to see how he can find the colors in his own world.

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

It is a touching story of kindness and friendship that all young readers will relate to, an absolutely lovely book, and 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 Shannon Stocker!

Hello, Everyone!

So glad to see you all again!

I hope you all had wonderful summers, got the kiddos off to school, and are ready to return to writing, reading, teaching, and/or librarying refreshed and full of energy and enthusiasm!

Jumping back into blogging gear with a Tuesday Debut seems just right, because there is nothing like a brand new author sharing her brand new book to inspire us all!

I am thrilled to introduce today’s debut-ess, Shannon Stocker, and her entertaining picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY!

By Shannon Stocker
Illustrated by Tom Disbury
Sleeping Bear Press
Pub date: August 15, 2019
Age range: 4-8 (and up)

Can U Save The Day


Distraught by bullying consonants, the vowels decide to leave the farm (and the story), one by one. Once A, E, I, and O are gone, a mess of concerned consonants and stammering animals must face a pending (but humorous) disaster that can only be saved by U.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Shannon!  Thank you so much for joining us today.  Where did the idea for this book come from?

SHANNON: CAN U SAVE THE DAY began as one of those “moments-before-you-fall-asleep” ideas. I couldn’t shake the thought that a book with departing vowels would be funny, and animal sounds without vowels kept playing in my drowsy mind. Eventually, when a stanza came to me in rhyme while I was still trying to sleep, I got out of bed and started writing. By the next afternoon I had a great idea and a horrible first draft. In that drafting process, though, I googled a number of farm animals to play with the sounds they make as vowels departed (first A, then E, etc), trying to see how I could create fun noises and unusual rhymes (like “brk” and “crk” instead of bark and croak, though that particular rhyme didn’t make it into the final story). I played with words and sounds a ton during the writing process.

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

SHANNON: I wrote my first draft in late 2015 and it was purchased in spring 2017, so it took well over a year to polish this enough to be sold. Although I have an agent now (whom I adore), I sold CAN U SAVE THE DAY without an agent. I do think it can be harder to get an agent than a book contract. Subbing to houses that are open to unsolicited queries and meeting editors at conferences and online events is such a great way to get your work noticed.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

SHANNON: Since this was only the second manuscript I’d ever written, I don’t think I really understood how bad it was. I had no inciting incident, no real reason for the vowels to leave, and no stakes. But since I didn’t know any better, I subbed it to some agents and editors, got a few nibbles with great feedback, and kept revising. I worked with critique partners and revised more, and more, and more. Eventually I paid for a critique with my fabulous editor, Sarah Rockett (Sleeping Bear), and she made a few additional suggestions that really resonated. Fifty plus revisions after that first draft, I’m so excited that it’s actually come to fruition.

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

SHANNON: This is such a great question. When I’d just started writing, my critique partners were also newbies. When they all felt the manuscript was ready, I began subbing to a few agents (though in hindsight, I think we all jumped the gun a bit). Many people had told me that agents rarely respond, so I took the responses that I did get seriously. I didn’t really get constructive feedback from any agents but I did get positive remarks on my voice and the idea behind the story, so I took an online class. In one of the sessions, I had the opportunity to read the manuscript aloud and everyone loved it. I knew I was onto something.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SHANNON: I submitted to my first agent in January 2016. I always submitted through guidelines as outlined on website/SCBWI/Children’s Bookwriters and Illustrators/#MSWL/etc. I did as much research as I could to see if an agent would be a good fit, looking at their client list, books they repped, and houses to which they subbed, before deciding if I should query someone. I joined Publisher’s Marketplace and kept up with the picture book section religiously, too. I would also scour the internet for interviews and follow people on Twitter to see if I thought we’d gel, or to try and find some little pertinent pearl that I could mention in a query to show them I’d done my homework. Spring 2016, I got a nibble from an editor at a different house from Sleeping Bear (I’d subbed through the slush pile). She and I made revisions, then she took it to the other editors for approval. That’s really the first time I started increasing the stakes, focusing on the bullying theme, and she even had me take the animals off the farm. I learned a lot from her and really appreciated her insight. Unfortunately, someone on the editorial team felt the idea was too abstract and it got cut. So, I continued attending conferences, getting feedback, and revising. In early 2017, I paid for an online critique with Sarah Rockett (Sleeping Bear). She suggested I clean up the logistics of the manuscript and remove the vowels from all the dialogue when they left. She also wanted the letters to stay on the farm, and she wanted more tension. Once the manuscript went to Acquisitions, I received an offer for representation from my first agent. Unfortunately, that relationship ended shortly after it began due to some honesty issues. It was a really heartbreaking and confusing time; I liked her, personally, but couldn’t trust her. I didn’t know if all agents would be like that (they’re not). So I ended up selling the book myself, hiring a contract attorney, and asking my published CPs for advice.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

SHANNON: I actually got an email instead of a call! Every time I saw Sarah’s name in my inbox, my stomach dropped. I’d always heard about getting “the call,” so I didn’t want to get an email from her; I thought an email would equal bad news. Sarah had written to me at the end of April, 2017, to tell me it was going to Acquisitions. At the end of May, she wrote to tell me CAN U had made the 2019 list. My husband and I share an office and our desks face one another, but computer monitors obscure our view of the other. My jaw dropped and my voice slid up the musical scale as I let out a sort of “Greeeeeeeeg” whoop, and I stood up so he could see me above my monitor. He said, “What? WHAT?” My whole body just vibrated, I was so excited. I screamed, “THEY WANT MY BOOK!” Then I called my CPs and we all squealed and danced together. That’s such an amazing moment!

SUSANNA: It sure is!  It’s the moment we all dream about, and it’s just as exciting every time it happens – it never gets old! 🙂 How did you celebrate signing your contract?

SHANNON: I celebrated signing my book contract with a bottle of champagne and a family night. The whole family chattered about how fun the launch would be. We talked about party possibilities, maybe writing a song to go with the book (which I did), maybe doing a music video to go with the song (which we shot a week ago), and, of course, cake. You can’t have kids and a party without cake. It was hard for them to understand that all these things wouldn’t happen for two years, but somehow, they kept their excitement up that whole time. The launch was a blast!


Shannon’s inspirations

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

SHANNON: I’d done a lot of research about first-time authors and publication, so I knew there wasn’t a lot of money to be expected. Royalty rates and number of author copies allowed were both reasonable from Sleeping Bear; I’d definitely recommend people submit to them. The quality of their books is fantastic, and Sarah’s been so communicative. I was surprised by a publication timeline that was over two years away, but I’ve since come to learn that’s pretty normal for many of the smaller to medium-sized houses. Patience is non-negotiable in this field!

SUSANNA: Tell us about the editorial process…

SHANNON: Honestly, this may have been my favorite part of the whole process, outside of that initial rush you get with the first draft. Sarah knew exactly what she wanted from me, but she was always respectful of my vision. When I wanted something she didn’t, she clearly (and kindly) explained why we needed to move in a different direction. I never felt like I was losing my voice, and I never worried that the meter of the story would be lost (it’s a rhyming manuscript). It was an open, honest collaboration that led to a story I loved even more. We had several back-and-forths before we got to the manuscript on shelves today.

SUSANNA: Tell us about your experience of the illustration process…

SHANNON: Sarah initially asked me to send her names of illustrators that I liked, which pleasantly surprised me. I’d been told to expect I would have no input regarding illustrations, so I tried hard not to really envision my characters. I didn’t want to be disappointed. Still, that’s almost impossible to do! So when Sarah told me that Tom Disbury would be illustrating, I looked him up and was thrilled. I envisioned playful letters and animals in the same style and colors that he used. I hadn’t envisioned them on a simple, white background, but that’s why I don’t illustrate – I don’t have an eye for that kind of thing! I just love what he did with the book. Sketches came to me each step of the way in digital form until I received the final pdf of the book. What a fabulous moment that is!

work buddy

Shannon’s work buddy 🙂

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

SHANNON: I did, I did! We celebrated the Kirkus review because it was so positive, and I know Kirkus can be tough on authors. The last line of the review is, “Stocker’s wordplay is icing on the cake.” We printed it out and stuck it to a window right by our kitchen table. Because this industry is so tough, we celebrate each little step as a family. I think it’s important to get excited when something positive happens! SLJ’s review actually just came out last week (after the release), but it’s also very good. A snippet from that says the book is a “fun rhyming addition to elementary libraries and classrooms.” It also says CAN U “will guarantee laughs as a read-aloud and will teach a lesson in cooperation and respect and give some pointers on how to apologize.” I’m thrilled with the two reviews I’ve received so far!

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

SHANNON: I received an offer on May 30, 2017, and the book released on August 15, 2019. But it’s sooooooo worth the wait.

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

SHANNON: Sorry, can’t help here – the book just released on August 15th. I’d love to know this answer for other authors, though. Great question!

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

SHANNON: Being pretty new to the market, I’m still learning a lot about this. I’ve been in touch with Sleeping Bear’s publicist about a number of things, though, ranging from library readings to school visits to bookstore signings. I’ve been impressed with Sleeping Bear on so many levels. They really care about their authors and they want their books to succeed. They work directly with schools on book orders prior to signings, and they’ve submitted CAN U for a number of reviews that haven’t come in yet. The design team also helped with the bookmark, flyers, and activity sheets.

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

SHANNON: I love Canva, so I’ve used that for flyers and Twitter banners and things like that – it’s very user-friendly. But probably my favorite thing that I, personally, have done for promotion is to write a song to accompany the book (co-written with my Nashville friend, Scott Sandford). I’m a musician (singer/songwriter/guitarist/pianist), so it’s fun to combine my passions this way. Last weekend, we filmed a music video to go with the song—my brother-in-law, Mark, is editing and producing it. I’ve seen a couple clips and cannot wait to see the finished product! I bought little animal ear headbands that kids can wear during readings, so they can each have their own animal sound (or one person can wear the headband and lead their own group). The video will be hysterical. Lots of kids, but a couple adults have cameos when you least expect it. I also asked an illustrator friend, Scott Soeder, to do face painting at my launch (my illustrator lives in England). Scott was a huge hit and the kids loved having the animals and letters painted on their faces! I’m also doing a blog tour and a few podcasts; you can find a listing of all those events on my website.

SUSANNA: Your video sounds terrific!  I can’t wait to see it! 🙂 How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

SHANNON: Songwriting was my first love, but I always wanted to write picture books and novels. I finally gathered the courage to quit my job in the fall of 2015 and give my dream a chance. I sold my first picture book in May 2017. I feel pretty lucky—I know that’s not a long period of time in this industry.

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

SHANNON: For every success story there are hundreds of rejections, and that can be a tough place to live. Thick skin is mandatory. But, in my opinion, so are critique partners. I would not be the writer I am today—no, the personI am today—without my critique partners. When you get knocked down, critique partners do more than help you back up. They actually lie down and cry with you first, THEN they help you back up. They’ve been knocked down, too, so they understand. When things get tough, they remind you of all the wonderful reasons you love writing. They will point out the reasons a manuscript is working, but also why it’s not…gently, but firmly. They are my first litmus test, encouraging me when a manuscript is agent-ready…and helping me revise when it’s not. We’ve been through so much together already that I can call on any number of them if my world blew up, and they would be there for me. If you don’t have a critique group, I strongly encourage you to consider finding a partner or two. Check the SCBWI website, look for local people, go to conferences, join 12×12…do the work, but reach out to people, too. You shouldn’t necessarily initially expect to join a critique group with a bunch of agented, published authors, but rather look for other newer writers with whom you jibe…and look for writing that resonates with you. Then ask those people if they want to be your CP and form your own group. Or ask if they have a group you can join. Nothing is easy in this business. But it’s all so much more worthwhile when we band together.


Author Shannon Stocker

Twitter: @iwriteforkidz (
Instagram: @iwriteforkidz (
Thanks so much for having me!!!

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Shannon! We are all grateful to you for sharing your experience and expertise and wish you the very best of success with this and future books!

Readers, if you have questions for Shannon, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Shannon’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 🙂

Bonus late addition – Shannon’s super fun music video!

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story PLUS The Love Is Kind Giveaway Winner!!!

Woo hoo!  It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday!

And you know what that means . . .

The weekend is (for all intents and purposes) HERE!!!

Autumn weekends are the best, aren’t they?

Apple picking…cider donuts…fall foliage…cider donuts…pumpkin picking…cider donuts… hiking…cider donuts…I’m sure you get the point…cider donuts 🙂 )

Today, I’m sharing a book about nature – well, really about a person who truly loved and appreciated it – even though not specifically about autumn.  (And not at all about cider donuts – although I’m sure the book would be even more enjoyable with a plate of them to munch on 🙂 ) Have a look!

Gwen Frostic

Title: Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written By: Lindsey McDivitt

Illustrated By: Eileen Ryan Ewen

Sleeping Bear Press, July 2018, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: nature/environment, overcoming disabilities, girl power, artists

Opening: “Gwen followed her brothers and sisters everywhere, like a small fawn follows its herd.  They roamed the woods and fields near Croswell – their tiny town tucked into the thumb of Michigan.  Gwen played and picked wildflowers.  But her hands were weakened from an illness as a baby.  Her speech was slurred, one small foot dragged, and she fell down often.  
     She bumped her shins.
          She bruised her knees.
               She banged her elbows.
“Gwen doesn’t need your help, Helen,” Mama called from the porch.  Mama knew Gwen could do whatever she put her mind to.

Brief Synopsis: A picture book biography of lesser-known environmental pioneer, artist, and businesswoman, Gwen Frostic, who rose above the challenges caused by a debilitating childhood illness to create nature-based artwork, help build WWII bombers, create her own printmaking business, and encourage people to appreciate, protect and cherish nature.

Links To Resources: the book itself is a resource, including back matter with additional biographical information on Gwen Frostic and a print-making art/nature activity; make your own leaf rubbings

Why I Like This Book: Most picture books are for kids up to age 8.  I love when the occasional one comes along that is intended for slightly older kids because, let’s face it – they love picture books too!  Educational and/or biographical information is so much more palatable in picture book format! :). This book is beautifully written, placing the emphasis on Gwen’s intelligence and determination to succeed in art, environmental protection and business, in spite of dire warnings in her youth that she’d never be able to write (never mind draw or carve) because her hands weren’t strong enough to hold a pencil and the fact that her physical disabilities made getting around difficult.  The repeated phrase that Gwen knew she could do whatever she set her mind to is inspirational and motivational for young readers.  I also love that Gwen was ahead of her time, doing things that women didn’t typically do.  Very empowering for young readers.  All around a very interesting book about a person I hadn’t heard of before!

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 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!!! 🙂

Oh, and if you missed the Halloweensie Contest announcement and want to work on your story this weekend, click HERE for the guidelines!!!

OH!  And I almost forgot to announce the winner of last week’s giveaway!  Laura Sassi and her generous publisher, Zonderkidz, offered a copy of LOVE IS KIND to one lucky commenter.  And the winner is . . .


Becky Scharnhorst!!!

So, Becky, give me a holler and I’ll put you and Laura in touch with each other so you can get your book!!!

Many thanks, Laura and Zonderkidz!