Kid Lit Dish

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

Halloweensie Contest!

Happy Halloween!

(Or should I say “Happy Halloweensie”??)

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Halloweensie is a contest– brought to the kidlit world by none other than author Susanna Leonard Hill.  You’ve gotta love Susanna– she does SO much for children’s writers (AND readers!) everywhere.

Anyway, I can’t resist a fun contest– so in 100 words or less (not including the title), and using the words bat, witch and Trick or Treat, we had to come up with a “teensie” story.  Of course, I can’t resist the rhyme either, so here goes my entry:


The Loneliest Pumpkin

There once was an orphaned young pumpkin named Pete,
who perched all alone on a porch down the street.

To him, that old house was too gloomy and grim–
old cobwebs and bat nests were part of the trim.

On Halloween night, a kind witch stopped to play.
She screeched “Trick or Treat!” but she paused then to say:

“Dear pumpkin, so sad—can I please take you home?
My house is ALIVE so you won’t be alone!”

So Pete moved away and discovered new friends…
For him, life’s beginning. For you, it’s



Keep in mind the entry ABOVE is the real deal.  But I thought it might be fun to share my quick notes/very early first draft from when Susannah first announced the contest last week… (This is how I usually start a blog post– by putting notes in first and then fleshing it out to evolve into the “final.”)  So the notes below include a quick “first take” at a rhyming story.  Ye-gads, but it looks awful in hindsight.  Remember… this is just top-of-mind scribbles!  ! 😉  Anyway, here goes nuthin’ (I can’t believe I’m sharing this):

100 words or less, using words:

witchbat, and “trick-or-treat.

There once was a pumpkin names Sweet

Who lived in a dark house on my street

His passion was candy, and he thought it so dandy

When the kids came to call “trick or treat!”

One night an old witch came a-knockin’

With her bat on her back that was hoppin’… [Hey!  That’s not even a rhyme!]

Okay, that’s enough of THAT now.  Yikes.  I’m probably going to regret this!  Ah well, all part of what I call the process.  (Yes, that’s right– throwing up first passes… uh, part of the process.  Yay!)

Now back to revising my book-in-progress, a.k.a. manuscript-from-purgatory.
(Can’t say the other word– I AM writing for children, after all!)


Perfect Picture Book Friday: Stellaluna

I am in revision and editing purgatory this week.  As most of you know, it is hard!  Much harder than the actual writing.  But I have some amazing and incredibly helpful feedback from a professional (and highly-regarded) kidlit expert on two of my manuscripts so my focus has been to polish those up and start getting them submitted in November.  But I couldn’t miss Perfect Picture Book Friday, since I missed it last week for our regional SCBWI conference, which was good.  I hope to update about it later!

Anyhoo, back to PPBF… I’m surprised this little gem hasn’t been reviewed before– it’s a wonderful award-winning tale full of meaningful (but not overt, in-your-face) messages… and the illustrations are beautiful and packed with emotion.  5– no, 6!– stars on a 5-star scale!


Written and Illustrated by: Janell Cannon
Sandpiper, 1993

American Booksellers Book of the Year, 1994; ABBY Award; California Young Reader Medal; Keystone to Reading Book Award; Reading Rainbow Feature Book; Southern California Council on Literature for Young People Award

Themes/Topics:  Acceptance, family and friendship, learning to adapt.

Suitable for:  4 and up, but in reading the reviews on Amazon, even toddlers love this book because of the pictures and the universal message of family and friendship bonds.

Opening Lines:
In a warm and sultry forest far, far away, there once lived a mother fruit bat and her new baby.

Oh, how Mother Bat loved her soft, tiny baby.  “I’ll name you Stellaluna,” she crooned.

Each night, Mother Bat would carry Stellaluna clutched to her breast as she flew out to search for food.

Brief Synopsis:  (From Kirkus)— Attacked by an owl, Stellaluna (a fruit bat) is separated from her mother and taken in by a bird and her nestlings. Dutifully, she tries to accommodate–she eats insects, hangs head up, and sleeps at night, as Mama Bird says she must–but once Stellaluna learns to fly, it’s a huge relief when her own mother finds her and explains that the behavior that comes naturally is appropriate to her species. With a warm, nicely honed narration, Cannon strikes just the right balance between accurate portrayal of the bats and the fantasy that dramatizes their characteristics. Her illustrations, in luminous acrylics and color pencils, are exquisite. The appealingly furry, wide-eyed, fawn-colored bats have both scientific precision and real character; they’re displayed against intense skies or the soft browns and greens of the woodland in spare, beautifully constructed (occasionally even humorous) compositions. Delightful and informative but never didactic: a splendid debut.

Links to Resources:
There is much information to be found on fruit bats!  Here are just a few resources, but they can enhance your child’s learning about these adorable (did I just say that about bats?) little creatures.

Why I Like This Book:
Oh my goodness, what’s not to like?  First of all, this book was apparently Janell Canon’s debut picture book, which is incredible considering its strength.  (I’m not saying debuts can’t be strong, but they don’t usually become classics, and this one is definitely a classic– if not a classic-in-the-making!)

And at the end of the book, there are two pages of fun facts on fruit bats.

And how can you not fall in love with this little fruit bat? She looks up at the mama bird with these big (albeit glassy) and almost tearful eyes… her face is like a tiny chihuahua,  and her little feet hang so adorably off those tree limbs!  She is the heart of the story, and her plight and journey from being orphaned (or so it seems) to adapting to her new home with similar (winged) yet very different creatures is a tale of courage, determination, and strength of character.  It is a gorgeous tale and one that children can not only enjoy immensely, but learn from.  Again, what’s not to like?

PPBF is a fantastic resource brought to the world by author Susanna Leonard Hill— if you’re struggling with finding truly outstanding picture books for your children, your classroom, your library, etc., then don’t miss this wonderful and comprehensive listing with links to reviews by picture book lovers the world over.  You won’t be disappointed!


Loosening Up

Big week as far as “creating” goes… I’ve been writing and editing up a storm, thanks to the incredibly helpful and positive feedback I’ve received from the kid lit pro I recently hired to critique two of my manuscripts.  ALSO, I’ve had this insatiable need to draw this week…  and I’ve been drawing things I don’t usually, such as St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow.  Yes, that’s right– the one with all the colorful “onion tops.”  (I’ll post it once I’m done with it– it started in my art class yesterday and I’ll finish it up in watercolor next week.)  So far, so good… but I am sure that my “watercoloring” (which has never been my strength) will ruin it.

Something about sketching that beautiful building, though, really flexed the old drawing muscles because I spent the better part of last night rough sketching characters in various poses– from old men to children to… hippos?  Oh yeah, and chickens.  (Scratch the chicken to the left, though– I’m not too happy with her.)

And this week will end in such a fantastic way– it’s the Southern Breeze children’s writer and illustrator conference in Birmingham!  I head out in just a few minutes and get back Saturday night.  My new illustrator friend, Shanda (who is an incredibly talented illustrator, by the way) is riding with me.  It’s going to be amazing… I just know it.  I feel like all cylinders are firing flawlessly right now…

I may miss Perfect Picture Book Friday, though… after a 3-hour drive and an evening networking event tonight, I don’t think I’ll have time to pull it together!

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Perfect Picture Book Friday: December

This book caught my eye on a recent library quest.  The artwork on the cover (and within, as I was to discover) is absolutely beautiful.  I can’t quite put it into words– it looks almost otherworldly, with unique colors and design with almost a stained glass treatment.

Before I even checked out the book, I read it right there in the library.  I simply couldn’t help myself.  I’ve noted why below…


Written by:  Eve Bunting

Illustrated by: David Diaz

Publisher: Harcourt Brace, October 2000

Suitable for: Kids 6 and up

Themes/Topics:  Kindness, selflessness, personal sacrifice.  Also homelessness, spiritual beliefs, miracles.

Opening Lines: Rather than type out the opening words, I thought it was necessary to show how the text is laid out within a unique beautiful design.  This treatment is carried through on every page:

Synopsis (from Amazon description):  Simon and his mom don’t have much–the cardboard house they built for themselves, a tiny Christmas tree, and a picture of an angel pinned to one wall. On Christmas Eve they take in a frail stranger who needs a place to keep warm, and the next morning Simon wakes early to find that the woman has vanished. Instead, he sees December, the angel from the picture, with her wings fanned out over their cardboard house. Could she be real?

Resources:  There’s a great Teacher’s Guide to Eve Bunting’s books (though December is not in here). And here’s an interview with Eve Bunting, who is now 83 years old!  Over and above that, this book would be amazing to read with the kids before the holidays… with plenty of discussion afterward about giving of oneself, sacrificing things that you might want for yourself for the good of someone else, staying positive and happy in the face of adversity, importance of family, etc.  

Why I Like This Book:  This duo ( Eve Bunting and David Diaz) has teamed up with other books (Going Home and Smoky Night)– neither of which I have read but now desperately want to.  Between Ms. Bunting’s beautifully lyrical prose and Mr. Diaz’s incredible illustrations (that he hand-painted in a combination of arcylic, watercolor and gouache)… not to mention his own handcrafted font… I just have to read more by these two.  I have now read this book about three times, and I can’t get enough of it.  Sure, it’s moving with a wonderful holiday giving message.  But it’s really a joy to read lovingly crafted words alongside such beautiful paintings.  I absolutely adore this book– holiday season or not!

Speaking of the holidays, if you’re looking for a “perfect picture book” to give to a loved one, don’t miss author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book page on her web site— I believe there are more than 700 books listed (as of this writing) and she updates it regularly with new entries.  For Susanna’s own pick for today, visit this link.


Perfect Picture Book Friday: Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

I’m late!  I’m late!  For a VERY important date!

It’s my favorite day of the week– Perfect Picture Book Friday, where I get to review my pick for the week.  Once again, I’m tardy because it’s been a manic week… what with a copywriting assignment, some good networking and fellowship events, and tons of school activities… oh, and plus tennis, which has once again been taking up a lot of my time.  Boo!  (Well, it’s only “boo!” when I lose.  If I win, tennis is the Best. Sport. EVER!) 😉

So here’s my selection for this week, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes written by the legendary Mem Fox (and beautifully illustrated by Helen Oxenbury).  I was surprised that no one has reviewed this for PPBF before.  Yes, it’s simple and light with a grand total of 184 words.  But it’s charming and, I think, quite brilliant with its simple rhyme and soothing repetition.  It reminds me of the lullaby-like quality of Goodnight Moon (another favorite, of course!)  I didn’t discover it until after Ian was too old for such books, but had I known about it when he was a baby and toddler, I’m sure this would have been a bedtime favorite.  It’s gorgeous!

Here are the details:

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Written by: Mem Fox
Illustrated by: Helen Oxenbury

Suitable for: Babies and toddlers (and even older children who love rhyming books and babies!)

Themes/Topics:  Simply put, this is a soothing book for little ones.  It’s essentially a book about babies… for babies.  The rhyme and rhythm and repetition make it great for bedtime.  However, on a secondary level, it can also be seen as a book about tolerance and multiculturalism… though this is understated.

Opening Lines: 

There was one little baby

who was born far away.

And another who was born

on the very next day

And both of these babies,

as everyone knows,

had ten little fingers,

and ten little toes

Synopsis:  There’s really no “story” here– it’s simply a global look at babies of all colors, shapes and sizes.  We (the reader) see the babies when they first come to this world, and ultimately we see them all interacting with each other playfully.  It seems to have an underlying message of “Let’s all get along.  After all, babies DO!”  This one has 42 five-star reviews on Amazon.  The phrasing is wonderful and the watercolor illustrations draw you in, “oohing” and “aahhing” at the adorable cherubs with their tiny fingers and toes.  For older children (read: toddlers), each page offers up an opportunity to learn to count.   Bottom line: If it isn’t hailed as one already, this one is destined to be a classic.

Resources: Mem Fox has an entire page of her web site devoted to this book– you can see it here.  She also reads the book aloud on YouTube.  I LOVE Mem Fox!  I want to grow up to BE her!

Why I Like This Book:   For the reasons stated above– brilliant, lyrical rhyme and sublime underlying message… wonderful watercolor illustrations showing babies with the most adorable expressions… and, of course, it’s by my hero(ine), Mem!   I’d highly recommend this as a gift for ALL new moms and dads.  I wish I had this around when Ian was a wee one.

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


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