Kid Lit Dish

Kim's Magical Journey Into the World of Children's Picture Books

Not-So-Accidental Blog Tourist Hop!

Happy Monday! I’m excited to report that I’m participating in this fun blog hop. For those of you who don’t know what a blog hop is (Dad), it’s a kind of a virtual, writerly, bloggerly “Tag! You’re IT!” Once tagged by someone in the blogosphere, you answer a few questions on your blog, and then tag one or two peeps to do the same thing on THEIR blogs by some predetermined time. Clear as mud? I thought so.

I’ve been tagged by children’s author-illustrator Dani Duck…

Dani Duck

Dani Duck

Dani Duck

Married, toddlered and reluctant cat owner.

Writes, Illustrates and Moms. Basically awesome. Seldom boring.

Avid coffee drinker and chocolate fan …

Visit Dani’s blog, here.

Now for Dani’s questions of ME, Kim MacPherson (for those who know me, I have a very hard time talking about myself!)…

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Ballerina Witch

1.What am I currently working on? 

Well, that’s a loaded question. On the writing and illustrating front, I’m fine-tuning one of the picture books I started earlier this year, Ballerina Witch (working title). I’m almost there as far as the text, and have just started drafting some rough illos and a storyboard. So far, so good.

I’ve also started a couple of new projects–one about an overprotected only child; the other about a prehistoric boy and his beloved sweet treats. (Yes, I know that Orq has just been released, but I actually started this before I even knew about Orq and it’s an altogether different book, David Elliott and Lori Nichols… promise!)

Gabriella is my polished PB… she is just sitting there waiting for me to get three or four other books to this same level of polish so that I can submit to agents, who want to see four or five or six polished picture book manuscripts if they like just one.

I have also resurrected one of the first picture book manuscripts I wrote–a rhyming book. And it’s a rhyming concept book at that! I’ve resurrected it because I’ve always gotten great feedback on it at conferences, and… well, just because. This one has a side cast of characters (read: they’re animated numbers) who carry a bit of a side plot (or illustrated narrative, as I’ve recently learned it’s called).  I can’t wait to draw this one!

Last, but not least (as far as my books go, anyway) is one of my favorites. It’s the one I wrote right after a SCBWI conference almost two years ago… in just a couple of hours. I put it on the back burner, where it sat for a few months. I pulled it out and let a couple of my critique group friends look at it. Made some changes. Then put it on the back burner again. It’s been simmering there for a while, but I still love this zany book (if I do say so myself). The book is called… wait for it… Stinkfoot. It’s about an uppity cat (and, no, he does NOT have stinky feet, thank you very much.) Anyway, this is one where I have played and played and sketched and sketched what the heck he must look like, but I just haven’t gotten it yet. It’s like I have him in my mind… but it’s just not coming out in my pencil! Ah well, one of these days. He’s one of my faves, though. Whoever he is and whatever he looks like.

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Dawg

Speaking of cats, I’m also working on fine-tuning my skills in… pet portaits! This was brought on by the love of a dog that we had to give up recently because our 10-year old was profoundly allergic to him. It was heartbreaking… mainly for me because I spent more time with him than the rest of my family and this dog and I REALLY bonded. (I’m getting vaklempt just writing about him.) Anyway, I took a pet portraits class with the intent of drawing/painting him. I thought it might be somewhat cathartic and it has been. (There IS a happy ending, though–he has been adopted into a great home where he is also well-loved. I’ll never forget this very special dog, though.)

Aside from writing and illustrating, though, I also edit. I edit technical and marketing text on a freelance basis for a living, but started editing picture books earlier this year (not necessarily for a living, but for a song). What I love about it is that I get to read other authors’ works-in-progress (in addition to my critique groups’ WIPs). They have been a joy to work on. And authors that have hired me keep coming back, so I must be doing something right! I don’t advertise or anything–I just have a simple post to my PictureBookEditor.com site in one of the 12 x 12 forums and that’s how people have found me.

Last, after a long summer break, I’ve also just begun an internship with a big New York literary agency! I figure it’s a great way to learn more about this crazy world of publishing, plus with all of the great feedback I’ve gotten from authors on how I’ve helped shape their books, plus my successful sales past, agent-ing just might be a twilight career for me. Who knows? This just started this past week, and what I’m mainly doing is reading full manuscripts for agents and then writing a “manuscript analysis” on them. I’ll also write cover letters that will target publishers on books that agents have signed on. I live in the Atlanta area, so I work remotely with one agent… I can’t physically file or answer phones, so that’s a bonus!

Oh – almost forgot! I’m also participating in a “coloring book collaborative” where several illustrators are contributing a coloring page that will go in a book that will be available for free. Very excited about that one. My second “tag-ee” below (Jennyann Carthern) is the creator of this exciting project.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

As far as writing goes, I’ve been told that I have a certain lyrical, rhythmic style to my writing…and that probably stems from the fact that I wrote rhymers to begin with, even though I write in pure prose now. I don’t know if it’s very different from others, but it’s mine for now.

As far as illustrating goes, I’m still trying to find my style–I vacillate between truly colorful/whimsical/weird and what I call “soft shaded cartoons.” There are a few other styles I’ve used. I’m trying to work it out by copying (not plagiarizing-copying… just copying for style purposes) others that I admire.

3. Why do I write/create what I do?

Plain and simple, it is just FUN. I could write and draw kid lit on the weekends, at 4 o’clock in the morning, while on vacation… I don’t care. I’d do it at any time. Even if I had a major deadline with a publisher and I had to get fifteen spreads done while on a gorgeous, long-awaited trip to Turks and Caicos (yes, that is a goal), I wouldn’t begrudge it. I’d say, “Bring it on! I can work on the beach!” That kind of feeling is when you know you’ve found what you were meant to do, I think.

Ultimately, though, I just love the idea of one of MY books inspiring a child to love reading. Today I saw Carmen Agra Deedy at the Decatur (Atlanta) Book Festival. She’s a celebrated children’s author who has been writing kids’ books and telling kids’ stories for at least a couple of decades. She’s an amazing storyteller. She was on a small stage with a bunch of kids in front of her, telling this wonderful Cuban classic children’s story, complete with audience participation on sound effects, dramatic pauses… the whole nine yards. The kids were mesmerized and some were laughing hysterically. THAT, my friends, is what good kid lit is all about. While I know I’ll never be a good storyteller verbally, I hope to one day entertain a child like that with one of my books. And I cannot wait to participate in school visits… that’s my life goal!

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

Ha! There’s no real process here in Crazy-Town! I just “work” (and I use that term loosely… to me, it’s more play than work) when I can. If I’m not “REAL working” (on my editing contract or, now, my internship) or taking care of volunteer events at my son’s school, I’ll find dribs and drabs of time during school hours, or sometimes a bit after school (before Chauffeur Kim has to start shuffling to tennis courts and karate and friends). There’s also weekends, though I always feel guilty unless the boys (hubby and son) have other plans.

My workspace (not one, but THREE desks!)

In my dreams, however,  I would rise before the roosters (no, I don’t have roosters; I’d just get up before they get up… wherever they are). I’d then tip-toe down to my office/studio (mere steps away). Oh! And I’d make sure to have a Keurig in my office so as not to wake everyone by going downstairs. (Gotta have that caffeine fix!) And I’d get a good two hours of work in before I had to get my son up for school. I’d start by reading ten or twenty picture books that I have on hand, to get in that “zone.” Then I’d start sketching. Then I’d open up one of my works-in-progress and start polishing or rewriting… or maybe I’d start something new.

In between, I’d check out one of my kid lit groups on Facebook. Or read a “how I created this really cool illustration” blog post by some author-illustrator that I admire. Or I’d pick up Andrew Loomis’ Creative Illustration or my  Big Book of Illustration Ideas to help inspire me.

Just about every day, I get some seed of an idea for an actual story. I usually write them down on my phone, or on my desktop if I’m at home. They’re everywhere. I know I’ve got dozens of working titles, but for every twenty that I come up with, maybe one or two really sticks.

So some days, I might spend a couple of hours taking a “Drawing in Photoshop” course by Will Terry. Then another day or another available two hours might be spent writing up an outline of how the heck I’m going to end this “thing” I’ve started. (Endings are always a problem for me. Always.)

A big goal of mine is to learn Corel Painter. I love, love, LOVE the true painterly look of Painter and I know it’s a complicated program, but I aim to learn it!

As you can see, I jump around. A LOT. I would say I have a touch of ADHD, but I’m not very “H.” I’m pretty mellow, actually, though I am pretty active. (I spent way too much of my free time this summer playing tennis.) I’m back to yoga AND tennis now (and, sniff!, running/walking when we had our foster dog). I find I get a LOT of great ideas in yoga class.

Anyway, I digress. I think I just made my point. :-)

In Summary

Well, well, well! While it seems I’m not very good at talking about myself, I can be pretty darned verbose when it comes to writing about myself! Alas, now it’s time to pass on the virtual torch to two of my fellow creatives. Let me introduce you to…

COLLEEN

Colleen Bennett

 

Colleen Bennett is a former teacher, aspiring writer, and full time snack eater.

She likes to dabble in a little fictional this and a little fictional
that, lingering for the most part over middle-grade.

For more on Colleen visit her blog colleenbennett.wordpress.com

 

 

Jennyann Carthern

Jennyann Carthern

Jennyann Carthern is a Visual Artist, Illustrator, and has been an active Teaching Artist in the Bay Area & Solano County for over 11 years for non profits and after school programs. She has a been practicing and studying art since grade school.

The first memory she has of a paintbrush was in kindergarten. She was painting black and white stripes on a paper mache zebra! T

Today, Jennyann still paints with brushes, along with pen & ink, pencil, and a mixed box of materials. In was later in life that Jennyann decided to attend weekend classes at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. But it was at the California College of the Arts where Jennyann hones her skills, not only in illustration, but in community arts education, and earned a BFA in Illustration. Today Jennyann is currently building her two businesses as the owner and operator of Paint Is Thicker Than Water Studio of The Arts and Jennyann Carthern Childrens Design & Illustration. On another note Jennyann has been a Vegan or Veg 8 years in counting!

 

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Gardener

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday! And, yes, I know… it HAS been a long time since I’ve reviewed a picture book. I’ll tell you what, though–this book (The Gardener) truly inspired me to do so. Published waaaaay back in 1997, it is one of the most wonderful, understated, and memorable picture books that I’ve read in a long time. (And I can’t believe it has never been reviewed on PPBF! My lucky day!) Take a look…

The Gardener

gardenerWritten by:  Sarah Stewart
Illustrated by: David Small

Farrar, Straus, Giroux 1997

Awards/Recognition: 

New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year (1997)
Caldecott Honor (1998)

(Both are incredibly well-deserved.)

Themes/Topics:  Hard work, perseverance, mental toughness, staying positive in the face of adversity, always looking on the bright side (yes, redundant, but it bears repeating here)

Suitable for:  Pre-school through Grade 2

Opening Lines:

(In letter format):

August 27, 1935

Dear Uncle Jim,

Grandma told us after supper that you want me to come to the city and live with you until things get better. Did she tell you that Papa has been out of work for a long time?

Brief Synopsis:

(From Amazon): Lydia Grace Finch brings a suitcase full of seeds to the big gray city, where she goes to stay with her Uncle Jim, a cantankerous baker. There she initiates a gradual transformation, bit by bit brightening the shop and bringing smiles to customers’ faces with the flowers she grows. But it is in a secret place that Lydia Grace works on her masterpiece — an ambitious rooftop garden — which she hopes will make even Uncle Jim smile. Sarah Stewart introduces readers to an engaging and determined young heroine, whose story is told through letters written home, while David Small’s illustrations beautifully evoke the Depression-era setting.

Reviews:

From Publishers Weekly
“Speaks volumes about the vast impact one small individual can make.”

From Booklist
Ages 5-8. Stewart’s quiet story, relayed in the form of letters written by a little girl, focuses on a child who literally makes joy blossom. Small’s illustrations are a bit more softly focused than usual, but they’re still recognizably his, with wonderfully expressive characters, ink-line details, and patches of pastel. Their muted backgrounds convey perfectly the urban 1930s setting where most of the story takes place. When hard times hit her family, Lydia Grace is shipped off to stay with her somber, undemonstrative uncle who owns a city bakery. She makes the best of her stay by helping out and by pursuing her favorite pastime, gardening, a talent she uses to make her uncle smile–in a very unusual way. In the end, she receives not simply one reward for her kindness but two. Stephanie Zvirin –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Links to Resources: 

Here are some nifty sites to teach kids about the Great Depression:

For kids:

http://www.kidsdiscover.com/shop/issues/great-depression-for-kids/

Lesson Plans:

http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/themes/great-depression/lessonplans.html


Why I Like This Book
:

First of all, who doesn’t love a well done historical fiction PICTURE BOOK? And it’s presented in personal letter format from a little girl’s perspective. What I loved most about it was the underlying theme of transformation– the transformation of the city that the little girl has to move to (it begins to transform after she starts creating flower boxes all over), the transformation of the attitude of the customers and people, and the transformation of the grumpy uncle who never smiled. And all because of an extremely happy, positive little girl who has been uprooted from her home life on a farm to live in the big city… yet she is full of joy about flowers and her life. She can only see the good. What a phenomenal message for little ones!

The last spread brought a tear to my eye. (Yes, just one, but it was a good one.)

Read this one. Don’t miss it. I would bet it’ll bring a tear (or two) to your eyes as well.

And don’t miss Perfect Picture Book Fridaysee the latest and greatest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website every Friday.

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Wik-SNAP!

gabs_lasso0001Okay, this illo still needs work, but I feel I get a better “view” once I post it live for all to see.  I think the hair needs to be tauter, among other things. Once I get it to a better place, I’ll color it in.

In the meantime–and this is completely off-topic–does anyone else besides me find themselves “thinking” in a British accent after watching Downton Abbey?

(Okay then. It IS just me. ) :-)

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“Bling!”

I’ve finally started character sketches this week for my manuscript that’s currently out on submission. This book has been a work-in-progress for almost one year!

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GABS20001

Here are a couple of iterations. I like the second one more because it’s more whimsical (much like the character), but she does look a bit older than I had intended. ( The girl’s supposed to be 7-8, but feedback is telling me she looks more like 10!) So back to the drawing board, so to speak!

The other one reminds me of a doll. Or a Colorforms character. (Remember those?)

This girl’s getting her gemstones on… her hair, that is. Hence the “BLING!”

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On the Cusp

girl3I feel like every time I start a new blog post, I’m leading with the words, “It’s been eons since I’ve posted…”

And although, yes, it HAS been a long time, I’m bound and determined NOT to start this post that way here! As always (and as it is with MOST of you), life is just full right now. That, combined with the fact that the older I get, the faster days fly by, makes for getting less done in longer amounts of time. After all, a day now compared to a day when I was 20… well, there’s no comparison. I only wish I knew the things then that I know now–I would have been quite the prolific kid lit writer!

However, I have to say I’m not doing too badly. When I look at my “WIPS” (Works in Progress) file folder on m desktop, I currently have several versions of ten different “current” manuscripts. Two, maybe three, of those are pretty much done. And one  has been submitted to about eighteen agents, four of whom have actually expressed interest in it and would like to see other things I’ve written.   (This is why I have been busy revising and rewriting a couple of other stories I feel are close.) I have to give a big shout-out to my critique group (we call ourselves “Trail Mix”) here–best critique group EVER!  TRAIL MIX PHOTO

In case you don’t know what makes a great critique group, here’s my short list: 1) Always encouraging, 2) Honest (though kind), 3) Fun to hang out with. This also applies to my friend and picture book author Linda Lodding (who just signed a two-book deal with Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky for her latest work, which I was lucky enough to see–and LOVE–before she even submitted it!) I am blessed that she has always been there to give me fantastic and helpful feedback on everything I’ve sent her. How lucky am I?

In between it all, I’m also on an editing contract with Kaplan Education’s IT Learning center, and I write freelance articles and marketing pieces for a forensics biotech company. (That’s right– from kid lit to technology and DNA. Talk about from the sublime to the ridiculous!)

I’m also taking illustration courses through Will Terry’s Folio Academy the School of Visual Storytelling,  and, of course, Mark Mitchell’s Make Your Splashes – Make Your Marks. It’s all good. And I’ve joined 12 x 12 this year–my first time ever. (I got it done in January–I revised a manuscript and wrote a brand new one. This is what we have to do each and every month!)

Next month, I return to my regional SCBWI chapter’s spring conference, where I’ll get one of my books critiqued. I hope to have completed a dummy of one of my WIPs by then. I also hope to attend a Highlights workshop this summer.

This is not a post to say how busy I am… it’s really meant to be more of a “hey, you aren’t doing too badly” motivational pep talk to myself. Not that I really need much motivation. I love, love, LOVE kid lit and, especially, picture books. I always have and I expect I always will. I feel for the first time ever that I am doing what I have always been meant to do. (I only wish I knew this twenty years ago!)

Ah well. I DO feel that I am right on the cusp, the verge, of some kind of a breakthrough. Not necessarily that I’ll get published or get an agent anytime soon… but something related to all of this. It feels like some things are just falling into place. So I hope to be able to post an update here very soon to let you know that I was right!

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How Loose is TOO Loose?

ges0001“She’s BA-ACK…”

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen… after a long (LONG) hiatus, I am back and better than ever.  Well, not necessarily better.  But I’ll tell you that, anyway.  Makes ME feel better.  (And this blog is really all about me, isn’t it?)

Ye-GADs, it’s been a while, but, as before with previous hiatuses (is that a word?), I have good reason(s).  I have been:

1) Working ferociously on my favorite work-in-progress since spring.  And I finally finished it… yippee!!  (Disclaimer: I may not be able to keep my tiny little editing fingers away from it forever.  Lord knows I have a hard time with just “letting things be.”)  But I am in “submit” mode.  I’ve already researched several agents and have submitted to four thus far (since yesterday so no word yet, obviously).  BTW, this is the WIP that was critiqued, edited and sanctioned by none other than Deborah Halverson of DearEditor.com.  She really likes this book.  (Did I tell you she’s a genius?) :-)

2) Self-educating (through online courses, videos, books, etc.) to improve my illustration skills.  (Side note: I almost wrote “Self-educating myself“… but that would be redundant, wouldn’t it?) And I call myself a writer.  HA!

3) Keeping (or trying to keep) my 9-year old fed, watered and generally entertained throughout the summer.  (But school is back in session as of last week– YEE-HA!!)

4) Playing tennis.  Not as much as in past years, but more than I have in past months.  That is, a LOT… and it’s messin’ with my time!  (But I play mostly singles and it is great cardio… so there is that.  A girl’s gotta exercise.)

And speaking of tennis, I’ve brought this up before but tennis really does have SO many pieces to it that are truly analogous to life.  As in that favorite topic that I’ve discussed here before– i.e.  this idea that with looseness comes brilliance.  Well, maybe not Stephen Hawking-like brilliance… but a kind of brilliance nonetheless.  sad

So I’ve been working on getting looser with my tennis game.  I actually tell my limbs to relax and I do a mini-meditation before every point.  And you know what?  It works.  (So much so that I’ve actually gotten to the semi-finals for this one singles league I’m in… whittled down from an overall playoff bracket of 32 that was whittled down from a couple of hundred initial players in early divisions.  If I win, I go to City Finals on Saturday!) But I digress… this blog really is about KidLit!

That same looseness has been translating to my writing (and drawing), too.  I’ve been training myself to relax and just let the ideas flow… and they’ve been a-flowin’.  I’ve written a total of six picture book manuscripts in months past, and have a pipeline of close to 20 ideas, complete with synopses for each.  And this summer, during this effort to be loose, I’ve come up with a few more… with no synopses yet, but I do need to polish up the ideas before I do that.

On the illustration front, I’ve fallen in love with the sketchy line.  I’m trying to stay away from hard, sharp lines and am discovering illustrators that do that well present such a wonderful emotional quality to their drawings.  These artists really make my heart sing. (By the way, for those of you that know that I grew up drawing and started out college as a wannabe artist, I’ve truly come full circle after so many decades and have reignited my passion for drawing.  As I told someone recently, I’ve written (books, ads, articles) most of my adult life… but drew the first 20 years of my life.  I realize that while I love “having written” (but not necessarily the process of writing), it’s different with drawing, where I love the whole thing– that is, the process as well as the “having drawn.”  That’s the difference.

ana1Anyway, this whole terribly long post is just to say that I am back and I do plan on blogging regularly again.

In posts to come, I plan on reviewing more kidlit, showing off my favorite writers and illustrators, and writing about other works-in-progress and the general nonsense of every day life.

Including tennis, most likely.  And whether or not I made it to (and won!) City Finals!

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: Eloise

I haven’t reviewed a picture book in a while– I’ve been too busy READING (not to mention WRITING) them. In my quest to read more “episodic” (and less narrative) picture books, I’ve been on a library tear lately.  Well, don’t you know one of those books is a CLASSIC of the highest degree. Yes, you can see the name in the headline here– it’s Eloise, which was first introduced waaaaay before I was born in 1955.  (The scary thing is it was only a handful of years before I was born. Well, a handful plus one, that is. ;-) ) Funny how the ’50’s seemed like ancient times when I was a little kid. Ha!

Anyway, after thoroughly enjoying this VERY lengthy picture book (compared to the current picture book standard, that is), I thought I’d like to review it… but then thought, “Nah, it’s been done before for Perfect Picture Book Friday.”  Well, imagine my surprise when I tried to look it up on the PPBF page on Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing website and… didn’t find it.  Yay!

So here is my long overdue review of a classic 58-year old, 3,445 word picture book. I never read it as a kid as far as I can recall, but it really is a timeless book. Not really a story as much as it is a pitch-perfect character study of a feisty, mischievous and hilarious little girl. A must-read!

ELOISE

eloiseWritten by:  Kay Thompson
Illustrated by: Hilary Knight

Simon and Schuster, 1955 

Awards/Recognition: 
I tried to find out if Eloise had won any awards, but couldn’t. This book is highly-acclaimed, however. It’s considered a classic in the true sense.

Themes/Topics:  There’s no obvious built-in theme like there is with many of today’s books. If you were to try and label it with a theme, though, I suppose you can say that this is what happens when a little girl is left to her own devices in a posh hotel with only servants to look after her?

Suitable for:  Ages 4 and up

Opening Lines:

I am a city child

I live at The Plaza

There is a lobby which is enormously large

with marble pillars and ladies in it and a revolving

door with “P” on it

Other Great Lines:

Nanny is my nurse

She wears tissue paper in her dress

and you can hear it

She is English and has 8 hairpins

made out of bones

She says that’s all she needs in

this life for Lord’s sake

Nanny says she would rawther I didn’t

talk talk talk all the time

She always says everything 3 times

like Eloise you cawn’t cawn’t cawn’t

Sometimes I hit her on the ankle with a tassel

She is my mostly companion

Brief Synopsis  (from Amazon on an expanded edition and written in the editorial style of the book): 

If you

love love love

Eloise

(who doesn’t?)

and you

cawn’t cawn’t cawn’t

get enough of her

(who can?)

then you simply

MUST

have this

Links to Resources: Eloise has a website! It’s here. Even though you never felt like Eloise was in danger (this WAS written in the ’50’s, after all– pretty much a time of innocence, at least it seemed that way), this story can spark some good safety discussion points with your children, such as, “Was it a good idea for Eloise to wander around that hotel every day? Do you think it was safe for her to go up and down the stairs and elevators all the time? Was she good about not talking to strangers? What would you do if you were Eloise?”

Why I Like This Book:  I love that it feels like it’s written by a 6-year old. There is not one period (or any kind of punctuation mark, for that matter) in the entire book. And her language is hilarious… you really feel as if you’re seeing this little girl wax philosophic about her innocent (well, maybe not so much) and her exquisite, devil-may-care kind of life. I mean, this girl has no boundaries outside of an “occasional” nanny. She has free rein to run all over the entire hotel. I had no idea how big this book was at one time– the real Plaza still has an illustration of Eloise in their lobby, apparently. And she became a huge sensation with many follow-up books, merchandise, songs… the whole nine yards. She was probably the first “huge” character spawned from a picture book… and why so many publishers today are so character-focused. I don’t know what her sales are to date, but when the 50th anniversary edition of Eloise came out, that number was around 9 million sold. I see on Amazon that those who read it “back then” buy this book for their children and grandchildren even now, as seemingly outdated as it is. (The concepts within it are timeless; however, some of the other things, such as the fact that the nanny smokes and drinks beer in front of Eloise– yikes!– are soooooo 1950’s.) Can you imagine that in a picture book?

Anyway, unique book. Unique story. Unique word count (let me reiterate: over 3,000!). All in all, this is a fun read– don’t miss it if you can get your hands on it.

And don’t miss Perfect Picture Book Fridaysee the latest and greatest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website every Friday.

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From the (Brains) of Babes…

(Or one babe in particular.)

The following comes from a very special third-grader I know.  He LOVES to write stories.  This one is a “pourquoi” story– basically a fable intended to give a reason why something is the way it is.  I think it’s pretty cute, so I just had to share. (Keep in mind he still has a lot of learning to do, grammatically-speaking… such as keeping punctuation WITHIN the quotes!)

Why Cats Have Fur

A long time ago cats had no fur. Dog and Raccoon made fun of Cat. Then Cat got sad and asked for another life with fur. He gave up one of nine lives.

All the other animals were jealous of this. “Why does Cat get 9 lives?!”, exclaimed Dog. “I don’t know.” But Cat didn’t get fur. Then Cat saw some dog fur and took it. Then Cat made it how Cat wanted. Cat told Cat’s friends how to make it. They made a den and they were happy.

But not for Dog. Dog growled so loud he woke everyone in town! The cats were happy to not be made fun of.

The End

THIS cat has NO fur!

THIS cat has NO fur!

Can you TELL which household pet this kid prefers? Pretty obvious, I guess. Well, he’s allergic to dogs, so that’s partly why.

It’s funny that he wrote this because I have a WIP entitled How Bull Lost His Feathers– not that bulls ever HAD feathers. (Well…  maybe they did?)

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Where Does a Month Go?

Yes, I’ve been terribly remiss with this blog lately.  But I have good reason(s):

1. I am editing my first book– a work of short stories– to be published by a small American publisher in June.

2. I am writing the second half of my picture book that started out as a rhyming book about a dinosaur dance… and after getting great character feedback from KidLit.com legend Mary Kole, it evolved into a rhyming book with a completely different story (and character)… AND,after receiving great feedback from my published picture book author friends Linda Lodding and Lori Degman, it has evolved into what it is BECOMING today– that is, a pure prose picture book that has been darned hard to write!

But it is *almost* there.

3. I have been taking a wonderful course entitled Making Picture Book Magic, created by none other than picture book phenom Susanna Leonard Hill, author of the top-selling Punxsutawney Phyllis, Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, and at least 10 other fantastic picture books.  Susanna is also the founder of Perfect Picture Books, which I used to be good about participating in every Friday!

4. I started another picture book that was inspired by one of Susanna’s lessons.  This one seems to be writing itself and the process is going blazing-ly fast.

5. In my pursuit of taking on more editorial roles (not in kid lit– I’m not worthy yet– but in adult fiction), I have been taking numerous (and lengthy) tests with publishers near and far.  (For those of you who don’t know, the job of editing is not foreign to me.  As a marketer and copywriter for numerous years, I’ve edited everything from a single paragraph ad to a 64-page magalog.   The latest edition of The Chicago Manual of Style perches primly on a prime position on my desk! (Sorry… couldn’t resist the alliteration.)

6. I just wrapped up chairing my son’s school Bingo Night, which (thankfully) happened this past Friday night.

7. I’m volunteering for my regional chapter of SCBWI– I’m producing its Published and Listed (PAL) kites for table displays, along with a partner presentation. (And if you don’t know what SCBWI kites are, don’t worry about it.)

8. I am now chairing my son’s school spring and fall Scholastic Book Fairs.  SO excited about that, but they’re a lot of work!

9. I also will be chairing 4th grade book club next year, and am in training THIS year.

10. I volunteer once a month at my son’s school library, and my goal has been, for the past few months, to check out and read 25 picture books each week. I also try and read one middle grade or one young adult novel each week.  (Future aspirations… don’t ask.)

11. Oh, and here’s a little thing… I have been helping my husband with our family business and will be taking on a much bigger role in the months to come as he sets his sights on starting a new business.  Yes, there is that.

However, I will take on anything and everything having to do with reading and if I can actually make a little living– and give back– with books as my guide, I will be one happy camper (or, uh, reader/writer, as it were) for the rest of my life.

I HAVE to finish this picture book by February 22nd, though. It is due that day to go to a freelance editor who used to be an editor with one of the “big houses” for 10 years.  I am thrilled to have her give my little manuscript a read.  That’s the same weekend of our regional SCBWI conference (where my “kites” and presentation are due!).  That’s also the same weekend my husband and I are hosting a little soiree.  I’ve got a lot to do over the next (less than) two weeks!

Oh, and did I mention… this blog will be changing… evolving… very, very soon.  When it does, it won’t be just about me anymore.  Oh no… it will be a joint venture in what I hope will turn into a great resource for kid lit folks everywhere as a result.

“Kid Lit Dish”… Think about it. ;-)

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Twelve Terrible Things

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since my last blog post!  December flew by, and I can’t believe that Christmas is over… let alone New Year’s Day!  It has been a fantastic winter break, though, and much to my 9-year-old’s chagrin, he goes back to school this Monday.

That means Mama needs to get back to work!

So I made my usual trip to the library to pick up a few (25!) great picture books to study story arc, theme, character and plot building, etc.  And on this last trip, I found a little gem I had never heard of.  Spare text, beautiful illustrations… and FUNNY!  (Hey, you’ve gotta love funny sometimes…)

Twelve Terrible Things

12 terribleWritten and Illustrated by:  Marty Kelley
Tricycle Press (a now-defunct division of Random House), 2008

Awards/Recognition: 
I’m not sure about awards for this book, but rave reviews:

“[Has] a wonderful sense of how kids sometimes feel the world treats them… turns the terrible into the terrific.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Minimal text and detailed artwork combine to convey a macabre humor that is bound to ensnare even the most hesitant readers.” (School Library Journal)

Themes/Topics:  Everyday (though scary) things that kids have to deal with as they go through childhood

Suitable for:  Grades 1-4

Opening Lines (start on the endpapers and they are brilliant):
PLEASE READ THIS

I’m warning you.  If you turn the page, you are going to see some terrible things.  Some really terrible things.  This book is full of them.  Didn’t you read the title?

Just about everything in this book is terrible.  You’re probably going to turn the page, anyway, aren’t you?

Okay.

Go ahead.

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Brief Synopsis  (from Amazon): At last, a grown-up brings to light some of the awful, horrible things kids must endure. A brother’s smelly socks, a jump off the high-dive, or a sloppy kiss from a great-aunt–hey, childhood isn’t without peril. In-your-face graphic paintings paired with droll text will have readers chuckling and sympathizing. Reviews

 “This is essentially Gary Greenberg’s Pop-Up Book of Phobias (1999) but with a wonderful sense of how kids sometimes feel the world treats them. Expect this book to be a hit with not just younger children but their older teenage siblings as well.”-Kirkus Reviews

Links to Resources:  Marty Kelley has some neat things on his web site, including artwork that didn’t make it into the book.  More than anything, though, the illustrations (and terrible things) can create some great discussions with your child… about the book AND about other terrible things that fill their everyday lives.

Why I Like (LOVE) This Book:  This is a great find.  The illustrations really do tell 90% of the “story” in each spread.  It starts with the aforementioned warning, followed immediately by a beautiful shot of a plop of strawberry ice cream… that has just fallen out of its cone.  The next spread deals with nighttime frights (as in the proverbial “monster under the bed.”)12 terrible_dentist

Then we get to a nice close-up of a dentist… about to look in your mouth.  Who doesn’t love the dentist?  Kids don’t – that’s who!

There are more that follow (twelve total, of course)– and some funnier (and truer) than others.  One of  my favorites– SCARY CLOWN… aaarrrghhh!  Another favorite– standing (actually, clinging) to the high dive at the community pool… with everyone yelling “Come on already… JUMP!”  Been there, done that.

Classic.

I strongly recommend this book, for both little and big ones alike.  My 9-year old loved it (of course, he’s in that phase where he really  likes gross humor… not that the humor here is gross.  Well, some of it is– like the lunch lady ladling gravy on… everything.)

Go get it– great fun!

Discover more “perfect” picture books on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s fantastic web site, located here.

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