Kid Lit Dish

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

Giddy With KidLit

I’ve been on a library tear lately–  I’m max’d out on my own county library card AND my account at Ian’s school library… I took Ian to his check-out limit yesterday… AND even checked out books on my husband’s school library account because I absolutely HAD to have these five books I saw yesterday!  This is the problem with volunteering at the school “media center”– I just can’t say no!  (Is there a 12-step program for kidlit lovers like me?)

This is my life about every two weeks now.  So I have a plethora of picture books waiting to be read, just sitting there on the guest room bed.  (For the record, the guest room is my reading room– it’s the only room in the house that is “complete,” meaning it’s decorated and furnished completely to my satisfaction.  Can’t say that for any other room in the house… after seven years of living here!  But one day, one day…)

Anyhoo, I did something exciting this week.  Since I’ve been having the darndest time finding a local kidlit critique group (or even an online one), I have hired a professional to edit my work.  
Yes indeedy.  This woman has a great resume– she’s been a literary agent at a large and well-known NYC shop and recently left there to head up the children’s book group at another NYC shop, AND she wrote a book that’s coming out next month– published by a large and well-known publisher– on writing kidlit!  This lady knows her stuff and I’m excited that she is going to critique one of my manuscripts, as well as my 18 ideas for future picture books!

That same manuscript is also now in the hands of Southern Breeze, the SCBWI’s regional chapter for the south– they have it in their hot little hands to critique during next month’s fall conference in Birmingham, which of course I am attending.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again– I want to hear it all: The good, the bad AND the ugly.  And I’m sure there will be ugly.  But I don’t care… that’s how you grow– by first seeing and then acknowledging where you need help.  I am so sure I need help.  And once I get it– and apply lessons from it– I’ll embark on the next phase of this journey.

I am fastening my seat belt, ‘cuz I am SURE it’s going to be a bumpy ride…

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday— one of my favorite times of the week!  Today I am a bit late because the last few days have been ridiculously busy with too many things.  And today is Ian’s school “fun run” where the kids raise money by being sponsored to run 30 laps around their field track.  I volunteered to check off laps for each child (fun!), but before that I have to finish sorting books in Ian’s classroom.  And AFTER the run, I have school library duty!  I won’t be done until Ian gets off the bus.  Then he’s got soccer practice and a tennis event tonight.  No time to write!

(Not making excuses… just sayin’.)

So in honor of the fun run, today I’m picking a FUN book.  I’ll admit I’ve been picking some wonderfully moving, tear-jerking books as of late… and it’s time to switch gears and bring a little levity to this blog!  So here’s my pick this week– it’s a winner:

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague

Blue Sky Press
September 2005

Themes/Topics: Manners, behavior, dinner table etiquette

Opening Lines:  

How does a dinosaur
eat all his food?
Does he burp,
does he belch,
or make noises quite rude?

Synopsis:  This is part of a funny “dinosaur” series written and illustrated by the incomparable team of Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.  (Other books in the series include titles such as How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night, How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies, How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?)

The first half of …Eat Their Food is all about the “questions” (as shown above in the opening lines). These questions ask how a dinosaur might misbehave at the dinner table… in all different ways (“does he bubble his milk?  stick beans up his nose?”)  Each question is accompanied by an illustration of the dinosaur doing the dirty deed.

Then the second half of the book ANSWERS the questions and basically says “No!”  In other words, the dinosaurs do NOT do all of these terribly ill-mannered things… instead they say “please and thank you” and eat “all before him with smiles and good will.”  And on and on.  So the good behavior counters the bad.

Why I like this book:  This is one of my favorites of the series.  They’re all done with humor, but something about dinosaurs having bad table manners makes me chuckle inside.  The illustrations are colorful and depict goofy dinosaurs in various human-like (child-like) poses.  The cadence of the writing and the rhyme is fun to read, both outloud and to yourself.  Best of all, there’s a message that goes along with the humor– that is, if dinosaurs can have good table manners, so can YOU, dear child.

Resources/links:  Jane Yolen’s web site.    And here’s a quick little article on teaching your child good table manners.

Check out all the Perfect Picture Book picks on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, here.


Perfect Picture Book Friday: Remember, Grandma?

I was browsing in Ian’s school library earlier this week and came across this little gem.  At first glance, I thought the title was “Remember Grandma” — so I thought it was about a child’s memory of her departed grandmother.  When I peeked inside, however, I realized that this book is about a little girl who is realizing that her dear grandmother is slowly but surely losing her memory… and along with that, all recognition of her and her family.

Remember, Grandma?

Written by Laura Langston; Illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner
Viking Children’s; May 2004
Suitable for: Age 5+

Theme/Topics: Grandparents, Family, Loss, Illness

Opening Lines:
My grandma lives with us now because she can’t remember.
She is not the wrinkled kind; she’s the special kind instead.
She wears high-topped sneakers with yellow laces and she laughs very loud.
Once she had a houseboat and an art gallery by the sea.  
Then she played the piano and made mile-high apple pie.

she sits in
her special chair
and rocks quick,

Synopsis:  Narrated in first person from the little girl’s point of view, this is a story of remembering– how a granddaughter first senses, then realizes the impact of her grandmother’s increasing senility… and how she copes.  From the book description: “Warm and accessible, Remember, Grandma? is an important book that will strike a chord with many readers. For families who have a relative facing memory loss, it may trigger important conversations. And for all children with aging family members, it provides gentle reassurance about the love within families that endures even when memory does not.”

Why I Like This Book:  This is a beautifully written and illustrated… and very poignant… little picture book.  One of the things that got to me were the illustrations of the grandma– especially her eyes, which are at once sad with remembering, and next confused with forgetfulness.  But through it all, she smiles, as does her granddaughter.  I was drawn to this book because of the cover of the little girl and her grandma, because I was especially close with my own grandmother up until the day she died… and that probably makes it all the more bittersweet for me, personally.

Aside from the illustrations, though, I think the language and the tone are just gorgeous.  And SO childlike.  For instance, when it’s clear that Grandma’s “forgetting” is getting worse, there’s a scene where the two are making an apple pie:

When I cut away the bruised parts,
Grandma stops me.

‘The bruised parts are best,’ she says.  
“All the sweetness in the apple
rushes to the soft brown part.”
Dad laughs, but Grandma insists.
“I remember,” she says.
“A fruit man told me once.”

We keep the bruised parts in
our mile-high apple pie.
Because Grandma remembered.

I mean come ON– how can you read that and NOT be moved?  That passage gets me every single time.

Resources: Laura Langston’s web site.  Also the back of the book contains a real mile-high apple pie recipe, which would be great to make with the kids as you discuss the book (especially the part about the bruised apples!)

For more “perfect picture books” (and to see the KidLit blogging world’s latest entries for today), visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday page.  I could spend every day on Susanna’s site!  (Actually, I think I do…) 😀   Happy Friday, everyone!!


Dribs and drabs

I just realized yesterday that I’ve been actively pursuing this KidLit writer’s life since the end of July, and have completed two manuscripts and am well into a third… and, just this week, have started a fourth!  (As I wrote here the other day, I want to have three that are completely done– three that I’m happy with, anyway– before I start submitting to agents.)  And I have a feeling the fourth will be the best.  It seems that whenever I can’t finish one, I have to start another… then that somehow gets me back to the previous unfinished one and I’m able to complete it.  It’s what I did with numbers 1, 2… and now 3.  Go figure.  That’s my process, I guess!

My only hope is that I don’t turn into a serial writer who never ends up submitting anything.

Back to agents for a sec– I know that I’m probably just a few weeks away from submitting, so I ordered a copy of the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents the other day and it arrived yesterday.  SOOO excited to see that my literary agency (that sold my e-mail marketing book that I wrote umpteen years ago)  is in there and NOW has an agent specializing in KidLit who is actively seeking picture books!  She will obviously be my first contact– as soon as I have my “magic three,” I’ll email her a query.  Unfortunately, I learned that my original agent there — one of the founders/partners– passed away just a few months ago.  Very sad.

And speaking of sad, I find that I’m drawn to more melancholy picture books… melancholy with a message, that is.  I’m not sure if that means that’s what I need to be writing or not.  I remember in the old days of taking novel writing classes, I used to always hear, “Write what you know.  Write what you’re drawn to in your own reading.”  So we’ll see.  On the other hand, I do really enjoy goofy picture books, too.  Yes– with rhyme (and without)!  What the heck is wrong with rhyming picture books, anyway?  Everyone says that they are verboten with some editors… yet I constantly see new rhyming picture books getting released.  I can’t help it– rhyme just comes naturally to me… though I do want to transition to writing more prose.

This is supposed to be my Tuesday post… it’s late because it’s been a crazy week.  Tomorrow is Perfect Picture Book Friday already!  I can’t wait– I already have my book in mind (yes, it’s rather melancholy).

Oh… and the sketch today?  Not related to anything.  Just felt like drawing an egg and a chick.  🙂

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: Thank You Mr. Falker

I’ve been looking forward to PPBF all week.  (For those who don’t know, Perfect Picture Book Friday is a fantastic resource hosted weekly by author Susanna Leonard Hill.)

Anyway, on Monday morning of this week, I volunteered in Ian’s (third grade) classroom, sorting books for the class “library” (which, by the way, is a cozy little nook in the corner of the room filled with books and even a comfy reading chair.  LOVE his teacher!)  As I was sorting, I came across a picture book that I had never seen or heard of before– Thank You Mr. Falker.   Because I wasn’t sure what category to put this book in, I read a little bit of it.  Then I read a bit more.  Before I knew it, I had read the entire 40 pages (and was shirking on my book-sorting duties, but I simply couldn’t help it).  Also by the end, I was moved to tears.

If you’ve ever had an experience with a truly GREAT teacher, this book will have you shed a few tears of your own.  In fact, I’m getting a little verklempt right now just thinking about it…

Thank You Mr. Falker
Written and Illustrated by Patricia Polacco

Philomel (May 2001)

Suitable for:  Age 7+

Theme/Topics: Teachers can and DO make a tremendous difference, bullying, learning disabilities

Opening lines:

Trisha, the littlest girl in the family, grew up loving books.  Her schoolteacher mother read to her every night. Her redheaded brother brought his books home from school and shared them.  And whenever she visited the family farm, her grandfather or grandmother read to her by the stone fireplace.

When she turned five and went to  kindergarten, most of all she hoped to read.  Each day she saw the kids in the first grade across the hall reading, and before the year was over, some of the kids in her own class began to read. Not Trisha.

Synopsis:  (From the book description)   Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability.

Why I Like This Book:  The illustrations are beautiful, and the story draws you in and so effectively demonstrates Trisha’s pain as she goes through the horrors of dealing with school bullies who tease her relentlessly.  When you discover towards the end that Trisha is really “Patricia” (as in Patricia Polacco, the author/illustrator), it makes the story even more captivating.  I dare anyone to read this and NOT get at least a little choked up!

This book has EIGHTY 5-star reviews on Amazon and I can see why.  Wonderful, emotion-filled drawings and true writing from the heart.  Give this one to a teacher you adore.

Links to Resources:  Patricia Polacco has a website, which showcases how prolific she is… despite her challenged beginnings!


Today. (‘Nuff said.)

First I want to recognize the day… symbolic for what was arguably the worst day in the history of this country.  My heart still goes out for those who lost their lives or loved ones on 9/11.

Today I head to my first critique group’s meeting… this is a pre-existing group that I was fortunate enough to find.  Am I nervous?  You betcha.  But I’m also psyched to get the perspective (and enjoy the camaraderie) of others who have the same goals that I do– that is, to get published.  And I DO want them to be honest..  No, I really do.  Uh, yeah.

As I wrote here last week, I’ve pretty much put the concept book manuscript to bed (in a good way)– so I’m probably going to bring that one along today.  Yikes!  Is it good enough?  Is it too much of the same rhythm?   Will they hate the rhyme?  (For the record, it should be noted that my dear hubby HATED reading rhyming books to Ian when he was younger.  Despised it, in fact.  Come to think of it, Ian was never too crazy about them either.)

This is the same manuscript that I’m going to send off to my SCBWI/Southern Breeze critics for a one-on-one critique at the conference in October.  I’ll be honest– that thought terrifies me.  I mean… my little ol’ manuscript will actually be in the hands of REAL editors with REAL children’s book publishers like Viking and Charlesbridge and Disney.  Good Lord, what have I done?!

I can hear the voice of my yogi (if I had one)– “Now take a DEEEP breath…”

So to calm myself down (and you do realize I AM exaggerating, right?), I decided to draw a character from my pure-prose, in-the-works manuscript #3… and also because I always feel I need to add a pic to every post!  So here’s my quick pencil and ink drawing for today:

Yes, it’s cartoon-ish, but I’m realizing that’s the style that comes most easily to me.  I really only have 10-15 minutes to draw, and I simply don’t have the ability to do a realistic sketch in that time.  I’m remembering how when I was growing up, I’d do caricatures of people– family, friends, pets.

So I present to you here my caricature of… an oyster.

Next week– amoeba!!  😉


Perfect Picture Book Friday: Kitten’s First Full Moon

Hooray!  Perfect Picture Book Friday is back after a summer hiatus!  What a fantastic resource this is from children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill.   If you don’t know what it’s about, don’t delay– check it out now!

So my selection this week is a book I’ve found myself talking a LOT about lately–  Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes.  It’s one of those books that I bought a few years ago when Ian was toddling around… and it’s one that I pick up now and again, just because I love the illustrations and the cadence of the writing.  So here it is:

Kitten’s First Full Moon
Written and Illustrated by Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books, March, 2004

Suitable for: Ages 2+





Themes/Topics: Perseverance!  (This kitten ain’t stoppin’ at nothin’ to get her milk-on!)

Opening lines: 

It was Kitten’s first full moon.
When she saw it, she thought,
There’s a little bowl of milk in the sky.
And she wanted it.

{Makes my heart sing every time I read that!}

Synopsis:  Kitten is an adorable and curious little creature who desperately wants that bowl of milk in the sky.  With each attempt to get it, poor Kitten gets thwarted.  She eats bugs, falls down stairs, gets stuck in a tree, falls in a pond.  But: “Still, there was the little bowl of milk, just waiting.”

Awards:  This book won a Caldecott Medal.  Yes indeed, and deservedly so.

Why I Like This Book: I’m not sure what it is about this book that brings me back to it again and again.  Is it the fact that the kitten is just too precious (read: almost unbearably cute) for words?  Is it the brilliant, but spare prose that is at the same time rhythmic and full of emotion?  Is it the  pure black and white (and shades of gray) illustrations?  Is it the cadence that reminds me so much of Harold and the Purple Crayon?

Those who know me know I just LOVE children’s picture books (well… ALL books, really.  But if I had to live on a deserted island and could only pick ONE type of reading material to bring with me, it would be KidLit.  And I “kid” you not!)  It’s why I volunteer at Ian’s school library… why I wanted to help his teacher sort books in her classroom yesterday… why I can spend hours in a bookstore.

Anyway, I digress… what I mean to say is that Kitten’s First Full Moon is definitely one of my Top 10 favorite picture books.  I absolutely love, love, love this book!


How drawing inspires my writing (and vice-versa)…

Yesterday, I touched on the fact that I had the post-holiday weekend “blues” (well, it was more of just a slight malaise and was probably due to not writing or drawing for three whole days… the first time that’s happened in months).

But after I posted that, I picked up the very first manuscript I started in the summer (and one that I had put to bed for a while) and I did, indeed, edit away.  And I also decided on the idea for the third picture book… because, like my new Twitter friend (and about-to-be-published by Simon & Schuster and Random House) Tara Lazar recently posted, good things come in three’s.

So after some good progress on my edits yesterday, I decided that today I’d start the third book.  But I was stuck.  So what did I do?  I did what I seem to be doing lately when I feel, uh, “disconnected”– I drew.

This is a super-quick sketch I did earlier… my goal was to take the same red-headed kid I’ve been drawing lately and put him in another position where I’d have to show some depth and perspective.  I decided a good floor giggle might show that effectively.

I’m not entirely happy with this sketch, but you get where I’m going with the process.  The end result was that I was able to start writing– I mean REALLY start– this new book, which is completely different from the other two.

Like I said earlier, the other two use rhyming text.  This one’s pure prose, but I’m really happy with the beginning already.  I have a good feeling about it.

What’s weird is I’m really not aiming to write for different age groups. (Book 1 is really a concept book targeting babies/toddlers… well, that is, parents of babies/toddlers– it’s a read-aloud book.  Book 2 is really for the preschool set.  And now… Book 3 seems to yearn to be for the 4-8 y.o. group.  I’m not intentionally hitting all age demographics because I’m a former marketer, I assure you!  It’s just the way it’s working out.  Like I said… WEIRD.

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Another nifty book trailer: The Familiars

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Today feels like Monday, even though it’s Tuesday.  I know I’m not the only one who feels that way!

So in an effort to jumpstart the (short) week, I’m posting this little scribble for the day… even though, like my two in-the-works picture book manuscripts, it isn’t quite complete.  This is the first time I’ve worked with gouache, and I have to say I really like it.  This was a pretty large illustration, which is why my paltry scanner cut off an arm and a leg (to spite its face… ha!)

Is anyone else having a tough time starting the week?  Ugh.

Okay, I’m going to let you in on a little secret– both of the aforementioned picture book manuscripts use rhyming text.  Here’s the thing: After reading Ann Whitford Paul’s fantastic advice on rhyme, I am realizing that I am decidedly NOT a poet… and I didn’t know it.  Boy, do I have a lot to learn.  The problem is I am constantly rhyming and always have– for instance, with Ian I’ve always made up songs and little ditties.  I am very aware of rhythm and cadence; but there are other subtleties (some that I now remember from my English lit days) that I simply haven’t incorporated into these manuscripts.  So I guess that’s where the “editing” kicks in, ay?

Anyway, it’s back to the drawing (or editing) board pour moi.

One little elephant sitting in a tree…


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