Kid Lit Dish

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

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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FINALLY… On Loosening Up

Well, here it is “tomorrow” and I’ve actually got another post!  Wow, two days in a row after two weeks of nada… from the sublime to the ridiculous.  (THAT one’s for my hubby, who can’t stand that phrase!) 😉

Those who know me know I love tennis.  Well, I may not be AS passionate about it as I used to be, but I do think it’s a great sport and when I’m feeling “on,” I love to play.

And those who love this game can always come up with comparisons of how tennis is a lot like life.  (Probably a lot of sports can say that, but tennis is one of those unique games in that it ultimately IS about you and you alone.  Unless you’re playing doubles, you’re really all alone out there… a team of one.)  There are a myriad of analogies out there.  Just Google “Tennis and Life” and see for yourself.

And there are other little nuances of the game that can be analogous to the real world, such as the fact that you can be the best in the world, but if you lack confidence in your abilities, you probably won’t be successful.  And one subtle change in your thinking out there on the court can shift momentum from your side to the other, or vice versa.  It’s truly 80% mental.  Again,  just like life.  Believe in yourself.  Set goals.  Work hard.  Success!

But it drills down from there.  And that gets me (finally!) to my point for today and that is that when you’re nervous playing a real match, you’re going to play what the pros call “tight”– meaning your forearm (your whole body, really) will be stiff.  If your arm is tense and not loose, it’ll react against the ball in a completely different (read: not good) way.  It’s an almost guaranteed error or fault most of the time when you’re hitting.  And that’s how matches are lost.

I was thinking about this today when I was thinking about writing and drawing.  I know when I started this whole process, I wanted to be so precise with everything.  So I wouldn’t even write down one word until I had the entire story outlined.  And I wouldn’t draw a picture without making sure my lines were smooth and straight.  But that was doing nothing to improve either my writing OR my drawing.

So now instead of these precision drawings (that invariably all ended up cartoon-like), I’m drawing nothing but these rough sketches and really trying to focus on GESTURE.  And two weeks ago, I wrote a pure-prose PB manuscript that I’m really happy with… in one day.  (“Precision”-me wouldn’t have been able to do that!)  Granted, this past Saturday was spent in a first round of revisions for that sucker (I had to get away from it for two weeks… to really see it for what it is) but I do believe there may be something there.

So I leave you with this: No matter what you’re doing– if it’s a picture book, an illustration, a poem… whatever– don’t THINK about it so much. Loosen up a little.  Leave all your inhibitions in the ethers and just DO what flows from your fingers and brain.  See what comes out of that kind of freedom.  I’ll bet you anything some really good stuff awaits.

Enjoy the day, everyone!

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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: 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.

Now 
she sits in
her special chair
and rocks quick,
quick,
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!!

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Design Of The Picture Book

Welcome to Design of the Picture Book! I'm Carter Higgins, and I'm a writer and librarian for kids. I spent a spectacular stint as the Children's Book Editor at <a href="http://www.designmom.com/">Design Mom</a> which I loved! You can find my column <a href="http://www.designmom.com/category/childrens-lit/">here</a>.<br /> I'm a K-6 librarian, a former-ish graphic designer, an SCBWI member, and a huge fan of words and pictures.<br /> Represented by <a href="http://www.rpcontent.com/">Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC</a>.

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