Join me in welcoming picture book author, Jennifer Wolfthal, whose debut picture book, A REAL FRIEND (Clavis Publishing), is out this month! Kirkus Reviews hails it as “A feel-good read about a friendship that feels real, indeed” and by School Library Journal calls it “A well-told, relatable story about friendship, fighting, and making up for children everywhere.”And here’s my reaction: Playfully illustrated by Judi Abbott and told with lovely gentle humor with a message that’s universal, this story of friendship and struggle is a winner. It would make a terrific addition to your class or home library. And now for the interview with my questions in bold.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Jennifer. I love your sense of imagination and ability to tell a story from an authentic-feeling kid perspective. Please tell us a little bit about your journey into the book world. How did you become a writer?
Thanks for having me, Laura! I’ve always loved writing. When I was a kid, my parents and I often wrote letters to each other when we were apart. To this day, I have bags full of letters. Whether I was writing poems, stories, or in journals, I was always most comfortable communicating through writing.
As an adult, I was thankful for the opportunity to teach fourth grade for eight years. Writing is huge in fourth grade, and it was a chance for me to share this passion with my students. It’s also when I developed a love for picture books. I started this author journey by reading lots of picture books to my own children and analyzing their structure. I also read books on the craft of writing for children, joined SCBWI, wrote many manuscripts, and revised a lot! I got critiques, endured the rejections, and ultimately got my first acceptance through Clavis about a year ago. Having your first book published in the middle of a pandemic and major election definitely has it’s difficulties, but you could also see it as a little rainbow in the storm.
Yes, a lovely rainbow! And your response is a wonderful reminder that patience and endurance are important parts of the author’s journey.
What inspired you to write A Real Friend?
There were times during my classroom years where I felt more like a referee than a teacher! 🙂 Best friend drama was always at the top of the list. It seemed like every other day kids were declaring, “you’re not my best friend anymore”. Only to be playing together the next day. Lol. When brainstorming ideas for a story, I knew this was a topic kids could relate to that I wanted to write about in a fun and imaginative way.
Ah, yes! The best stories come from kid-tested, heart-felt moments like these. I’m glad you made note of the idea and found a fun way to turn it into a story.
What would you like readers to take away from this story?
Even though friends have their ups and downs, friendship is a gift to be treasured. And real friends – always stick together.
A Real Friend is your debut picture book. How does it feel to be “post-publication”? What do you like best about this exciting new stage?
It feels great! There’s definitely a relief in being familiar with the process. Before this year, I didn’t know much about book publishing, creating launch teams, visiting blogs, etc. Now that I have a better understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing world, I can focus more on what I love – writing stories!
Finally, what’s the one question that you wished I’d asked but didn’t.
Fun question, Laura! Here’s one: What’s something about you not many people know? Now I feel like I should answer it. Lol. Before I married my husband, I wed – Micky Mouse! My aunt dressed me up as a bride, and we had a ceremony and all. Ha! Ha! (Don’t tell Minnie.)
Thank you so much for joining us today and best wishes with this lovely new book.
Biography: Jennifer Wolfthal graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education. She has been a certified teacher for the past fourteen years. She is also an internationally published author. Her debut picture book, A Real Friend was published in the USA in November 2020 (Clavis Publishing). Corabelle’s Butterfly is due to be released in 2021 (Doodle and Peck). She is a member of SCBWI and enjoys developing her craft through online courses and critique partners.
[Note: Thank you to Clavis Publishing for an advance copy of this book that I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]
Today I am thrilled to interview talented children’s book author Karen Roster-Gruber in celebration of not one, but TWO 2020 releases. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TREES, illustrated by Holly Sterling and published by Kar-Ben Publishing is a cheery board book celebrating Tu B’Shevat—Jewish Arbor Day. Told in song-like verse, it captures the joy of planting a tree with three diverse children working together to get the job done. A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE, illustrated by Kristina Swarner and published by Albert Whitman, is Karen’s delightful retelling of an old Yiddish folktale. Told in a combination of prose and spot-on cumulative verse, it had me smiling with each page turn. Kristina Swarner’s illustrations, rendered in ink and watercolor with lots of texture and humor, work well with Karen’s charming text to capture the feel of a traditional folktale, but with modern humor.
Both are delightful and would make wonderful additions to your home or school library. I will be recommending them for purchase at my local town library. Now, the moment, you’ve all been waiting for — the interview with my questions in bold.
Congratulations on the release of both of these fabulous books. Let’s start with A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE. I’m smitten with this cumulative tale based on a Yiddish folktale. What inspired you to retell it? Is there anything special about the names Earl and Marge?
My parents are named Earl and Marge and I finally got to use them in a book! I tried getting my grandmother’s name in there as well, but the publisher took it out. Her name was Zelda.
I wanted to reimagine a Yiddish folktale and make it a story that everyone could enjoy, so I took out the Rabbi and the Yiddish words, and added in a wise woman because times have changed.
I also wanted to make the tale a bit more lyrical. I added a touch of rhyme–a repeated refrain, which kids love. Kids also like when they can predict something.
Right now this tale is perfect, as everyone is feeling like Farmer Earl, stuck in a too-small space with their cats, dogs, and kids during COVID; It’s too crowded!
HA! Yes, we can all relate to that cooped up feeling. That’s for sure!
The illustrations by Kristina Swarner mirror perfectly the folksy, whimsical feel of your text. Can you offer any tips for caregivers for how to make the most of this pairing? (Ex: stop and count, play “find the…” etc?)
Everytime I look at my book, I find things that I didn’t see before. Illustration-wise, the only thing I can take credit for is the duck on the front cover taking a bite out of the letter “A” in the word “FOLKTALE.” The duck was already on the roof in the sketches and sooooo very close to the letter “A,” that I thought it would be hysterical. I called my editor and she agreed.
She told the illustrator and it was done.
There’s also a toilet paper scene that quacks me up!
Many people I know are telling me that they have their kids counting the ducks, the horses, and the goats on each page. And, asking them to find certain things–like the duck in the toilet or the mouse underneath the bed.
I tell people to take notice of the fabric on the wise woman’s dresses, the drapes, and the wise woman’s chair. Look at the patterns on the wallpaper. And, to pay close attention to what appears in the wise woman’s windows. It will give the children an idea of what the wise woman will say to Farmer Earl next. Her plants grow in each instance as well.
In addition, the cats in the book are not amused with all of the ducks, horses, and goats coming into the house, so their facial expressions are a killer.
Here’s the toilet paper scene:
I agree. There are SO many ways young readers can delight in the joy of discovering the many details in both illustration and text.
Oh my goodness, life is good. Two books out in the same month – each as darling as the other! Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TREES.
In the past, I’ve had two books come out in the same year, but I’ve never had two come out in the same month! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TREES came about because I was invited to a luncheon sponsored by the PJ Library. When they told us what they were looking for, they said that they needed good board books. So, I went home and looked in my file for the many board books that I had written. I found one called, “Happy Birthday to the Trees.” I sent it to the PJ Library and won a 2000 author incentive award. Then my agent found a publisher for it.
(For my first 14 books I didn’t have an agent though. For these two I did.)
You certainly have a gift for rhythm and rhyme. Both stories shared today have very distinct rhythmic voices and rhyme patterns. As an author, how do you decide the verse style you will use for a given story?
It literally happens to me at 3am. With A CROWDED FARMHOUSE FOLKTALE, after reading countless folktales from all over the world and settling in on two, the next morning I wrote this on a sticky note. That note became the repeated refrain for the book.
I can relate to that! Good thing you keep sticky notes and a pen by your bedside. This has been such a lovely chat, Karen. In closing, where can interested readers find your books?
You can order both of these books from any bookstore near your house. If you want signed copies, though, I signed extra copies at my local bookstore: The Bookworm. To get a signed copy here’s their number. They can ship anywhere. 908-766-4599.
BIO: Karen Rostoker-Gruber is a multi-award-winning author of over 16 books with hundreds of thousands of copies sold. Farmer Kobi’s Hanukkah Match, was named a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and was awarded the 2016 Outstanding Children’s Literature Award from the Church and Synagogue Library Association. Her books Bandit (Marshall Cavendish 2008), Bandit’s Surprise (Marshall Cavendish 2010), and Ferret Fun (Marshall Cavendish 2011) all received starred reviews in School Library Journal; Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo (Dial 2004) and Bandit were both International Reading Association Children’s Book Council Children’s Choices Award recipients; three of her books, Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo(in 2005), Bandit (in 2009), and Ferret Fun (in 2012) were all chosen for the 100 Best Children’s Books in the Bureau of Education and Research’s Best of the Year Handbook. Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-DooandFerret Fun were nominated for the Missouri Show Me Award; Bandit was nominated for the South Carolina Book Award; and Rooster Can’t Cock-a-Doodle-Doo was a Dollywood Foundation selection two years in a row (in 2007 the Dollywood Foundation bought 73,579 copies and in 2008 it bought 88,996 copies). Karen’s book, Maddie the Mitzvah Clown, published by Apples and Honey Press, a division of Behrman House, was named a PJ Library book selection in July of 2017 and went out to 21,000 4-year-olds in the US and Canada. Karen’s latest books, Happy Birthday, Trees (KarBen) and A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale (Whitman), will both be out in 2020. Karen is an active member of SCBWI, has twice co-chaired the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature’s One-on-One Conference, and is one of the co-founders of The Book Meshuggenahs. http://www.karenrostoker-gruber.com
[Note: Thank you to Kar-Ben Publishing and Albert Whitman for the sharing ARCs which I was under no obligation to review. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]
When I read the description of Jennifer’s newest book, A LITTLE BLUE BOTTLE, illustrated by Gillian Whiting and published last month by Church Publishing, I knew immediately that I wanted to interview her.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
“In this beautiful book for children, a child tells her story of losing a beloved neighbor and friend. A young girl remembers playing with her neighbor’s cat, stories that her neighbor told her, and the special mementos her friend kept on a shelf above her kitchen sink, including a little blue bottle she kept to remind her of Psalm 56:8: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” A Little Blue Bottle doesn’t provide pat answers or heavy-handed messages about life or death, but allows the grieving child to articulate her loss and her love for the deceased friend, while wondering how God is near when we suffer. A gentle and insightful resource for children who are grieving, and for those who care for them.”
Wow! I sure could have used a book like this when my mother passed away a few years ago and we all, including my then 9 year old daughter and 13 year old son, were grieving. In the special connection department, I have on my window sill the little collection of blue bottles that my mother kept on her window sill. So you see, interviewing Jennifer was meant to be. Thank you Jennifer! And now, the interview with my questions in bottle blue.
First off, congratulations. A LITTLE BLUE BOTTLE released on September 3oth! How has the launch been with the pandemic in full swing?
Thank you! I’m glad it is finally out! Launching a book in 2020, of course, has been very different from any of the other times I’ve released a book. I have a few favorite independent bookstores, including Prairie Path Books in Wheaton, IL, where I normally have book launch parties. The last one, for Maybe I Can Love My Neighbor Too (2019) was so much fun! My oldest and dearest friend came from out of state, my in-laws and mother from nearby, and many others were there to celebrate the book coming into the world. When I was in 7th grade, I had a special teacher who encouraged me in my writing; we’ve stayed in touch and she always comes to book launch parties in the Chicago area, which means the world to me. But this year, no launch parties…
My husband offered to set up something on Zoom, but after attending my daughter’s high school graduation, my son’s college graduation, and birthday parties—including my husband’s grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration—via Zoom, I just didn’t have the heart for it.
As you know, one of the delightful things about writing for kids is reading to them—it’s been strange just having the book slip out into the world and not to experience it with children, in person.
Yes, I know what you mean. Virtual is better than not at all, but there’s nothing as special as in-person connecting through reading.
You write for both adults and children. Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.
I always wanted to be a writer when I was growing up. In college, I took all the creative writing classes I could and then went on to grad school, studying English and Creative Writing. The kind of winding path of my career has always involved writing. I’ve written annual reports, white papers, newspaper features and columns, blog posts, articles, and books. It’s been over the past 4-5 years when I’ve turned my attention toward children’s literature.
I’m so glad you did! What inspired you to write A LITTLE BLUE BOTTLE?
A friend of mine lives near Newtown, CT, and after the Sandy Hook tragedy, I asked her whether she was finding good picture books about grief or death to read with her young children, some of whom knew kids who were murdered at their school. She said she hadn’t found anything she wanted to share with them during that time. That planted a seed in my mind; I thought it would be an honor to write a story that might offer comfort to grieving kids. The main character of Mrs. Wednesday (the older woman who dies in the book) is based on a few real-life older neighbors I’ve had, both as a child and when I was raising my kids. Certain details, like the cat hiding under the bed, are taken from real experiences with older women I’ve known. Intergenerational friendships can be so rich; I wanted to celebrate them in this book, too.
What is your greatest desire for the readers who read this book? What other resources are available for extending the reading?
I thought for a long time before writing the dedication to A Little Blue Bottle. I think it answers your question, and it reads: “For all who grieve—may your loneliness be eased and your hope reawakened.”
That’s a beautiful dedication for a much-needed book. Just lovely.
Finally, what’s next? Are there more books in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
I’m currently working on two projects, and both of them will be released in Fall 2021.
One is a book for adults, from Broadleaf Books, called Dimming the Day: Evening Meditations for Quiet Wonder. It’s a book of 20 readings about things in nature (things as ordinary as dandelions and as ornate as starling murmurations). Each short chapter tells a story, includes scientific information on the topic at hand, and ends with some poetry or a part of Scripture, and then a prompt for sleep. The idea is to change up the way we end the day—rather than doom-scrolling through the news headlines or social media, feeling a sense of wonder and awe about the natural world to relax before sleep.
The other book I’m working on is a picture book, and, again, I’m collaborating with the amazing artist Gillian Whiting, who illustrated A Little Blue Bottle. It’s a story I wrote early on in the pandemic and tells the story, for young children, about what has happened, how things have changed, and more about this time. Gillian is using a very different style in these illustrations. They’re powerful.
Thank you so much for stopping by today, Jennifer. Best wishes with this and all your upcoming projects.
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Grant is the author of five books for adults and several for children, including the award-winning picture book Maybe God is Like That Too. A former newspaper columnist and the mother of four young adult children, she lives with her bicycle-obsessed husband and rescue dog Scarlett in the Chicago area. More at jennifergrant.com or find her on Twitter @jennifercgrant.
It’s not every day that an author, or at least THIS author, is blessed with the opportunity to be interviewed by a senior librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library!
This lovely opportunity was set in motion at the HarperCollins booth at the ALA midwinter convention this past January where I had just beforehand had a book signing for the Spanish edition of LOVE IS KIND – EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO. That, too, was a wonderful experience with a line that snaked around the corner. I loved interacting with librarians from all across the country. I think I signed 150+ books that day!
After the signing ended, I was browsing the other booths, when I got a text from my host at HarperCollinsChristian, Selene Covarrubias, that Ana Campos, Senior Librarian from the International Languages Department of the Los Angeles Public Library wanted to video record me and set up an interview for their blog. I hurried back, of course.
The video never ran because it was an invitation visit the library – which closed for in-person visits less than two months after the convention due to the pandemic. But, Selene took a picture of me being recorded, so you can see that.
Then, with the lockdown, everything on the blog was pushed back. Finally last Monday, the interview posted! And even LITTLE EWE (my upcoming book) got a mention. What a lovely situation, all around. Thank you, Ana Campos and the team at the Los Angeles Public Library blog! Now, in case you are interested in reading the interview, here is the link: https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/interview-author-laura-sassi
ONE FINAL THOUGHT: All this library talk has gotten me thinking. If you haven’t done so already, would you mind checking to see if YOUR library owns LOVE IS KIND and EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (or any of my books)? If they don’t, would you make a quick call to the children’s department and recommend them? Or, if you prefer, many libraries also have a “Suggest a Purchase” forms on their websites. Let me know if you do — as it would make my day.
Today I am delighted to welcome one of my first critique partners, Michelle Lord, for an interview to celebrate the release of her recent picture book THE MESS THAT WE MADE, published by Flashlight Press and gorgeously illustrated by Julia Blattman. I spotted her book at the ALA Mid Winter Meeting this past January and not only snapped this picture, but also enjoyed savoring every word and illustration. Written in flawless rhyme, echoing the traditional “This is the House that Jack Made,” Michelles’ story offers teachers, librarians and caregivers a wonderful way to engage children in issues of preservation- specifically relating to the world’s oceans. Now for the interview, with my questions in bold.
Welcome, Michelle. Please tell us a little bit about your journey into the book world. Have you always been a writer?
As a child, I loved to read and escaped into a book whenever I could. I wrote and illustrated my first book, Freddy the Fly, at age five. I returned to writing when my own children were young. I read many picture books in those days (and still do), and admired the artful combination of words and pictures. I decided to give it a try…
I joined SCBWI, took classes, went on retreats, and learned as much as I could about writing for children. Lee & Low Books published my first book in 2006. I belong to a critique group of wonderful women who help take my writing to the next level. My kids are now all in their twenties, and I’m still working to find the right combination of words to tell a good story.
Congratulations on the release of your beautiful new picture book with Flashlight Press. What inspired you to write THE MESS THAT WE MADE?
Thank you! Kids inspired me to write this book. I feel terrible that they will inherit such a mess! The ocean is vital to all of our lives. Humans depend on the ocean for the air we breathe—it produces more than half of the world’s oxygen. Millions of plants and animals make their home in the ocean and provide us with needed food and medicine. Besides, who doesn’t love splashing through the surf or listening to waves crash ashore at sundown? We must appreciate and take care this precious resource—the ocean.
Can you tell us about the illustrator? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?
My editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, and I had various back-and-forth emails regarding the type of illustration that would best fit my story. An illustration style that wasn’t too cartoony was important to me because of the subject matter. Shari wanted to find an illustrator who had a mastery of light. When Shari sent samples of Julia Blattman’s work, I agreed that her style art complimented my text. When I finally saw the completed illustrations, I was amazed by the beautiful illustrations Julia created! The images really moved me from sadness to triumph as the characters work their way through the story. Art is powerful.
One of my favorite illustrations in THE MESS THAT WE MADE shows seals swimming around their plastic-free environment after the characters have cleaned up the mess that we made. The text reads, “We protest the boat of welded steel, collect the nets and free the seal, that eats the fish…” This image gives me hope.
Your book stunningly brings into focus the pressing need to protect our seas. Can you offer any advice for teachers/parents for how they can use this book to spark meaningful conversation and action with their kids?
Some people may think that children are too young to learn about the devastation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I believe children should learn the reality of plastic pollution. Most of us don’t think about how our daily choices impact the planet—that the plastic bag from the grocery store could end up in the ocean. I hope my book gives children a glimpse of the harm plastic causes for sea life. If THE MESS THAT WE MADE can start conversations about environmentalism and inspire people to create change, I’ve accomplished my goal. Children have the power to make a difference in their world. Julia’s illustrations alone motivated me to think more about plastic use in my own life.
The backmatter contains calls to action, things kids and families can do to fight ocean pollution. One suggestion is cut down on single-use plastics. Children, parents, and educators can also look up the locations of ocean garbage patches on the map provided, or discover how long it takes for common things we use to decompose.
Plastics that are used one time before being discarded are called single-use plastics. Items like water bottles, grocery bags, and food baggies are single-use plastics and compose approximately 40% of ocean trash. If each of us enacted a few changes, we could make a big difference. We can help save our oceans if we forgo straws, drink from reusable water bottles, and pack snacks in reusable containers.
During this time when many of us around the world are wearing disposable masks and gloves, please dispose of these in the trash instead of on the ground. Reusable masks with or without a filter create less waste. Stay well!
Thank you, Michelle! And now for a final treat, enjoy listening to this recording from the publisher of the author herself reading the book!
About the author: Michelle Lord is the author of several books for children including Paterson Prize Honor Book A Song For Cambodia, Nature Recycles, and Animal School: What Class Are You? She lives with her family in New Braunfels, TX. Find her on the web at https://michellelordbooks.com.
I was delighted last Spring to learn that a Spanish edition of LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) was in the works and couldn’t wait for its release this past December. Titled EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO and published by Vida Editorial, the Spanish division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, it’s a beautifully done edition. I’ve been practicing reading it aloud nightly in preparation for a live story time later this week and in doing so I’ve really come to love the charming flow of the translated version. This does not happen by chance! It’s the result of the efforts of a good translator. A close look at the copyright page of the Spanish edition revealed that the translator was a woman named Danaé Sanchez. I gratefully connected with her social media and asked if she’d be up for an interview. She was! I know you will enjoy her lovely spirit and keen insights into the translation process as much I have have. Here now is our interview, with my questions in bold. Enjoy!
Welcome, Danaé. Please tell us a little bit about your journey into the book world. How did you come to be a translator?
All my life, I had wanted to a graphic designer and when the time came to choose a career path, I applied twice for the best Design College in the country and was rejected –twice. I pouted. But God had a plan all along. As a child I had prayed that God would use me for His Kingdom and I have a memory of finding a book by my mom’s bedside table. I opened it up and it read, “Thomas Nelson, Nashville”. I loved Nashville and said, “I am going to work there.” God was weaving His purpose in my life.
Years later, after being rejected twice in the Design school, the Lord spoke to me through my dad, suggesting that I major in translation/interpretation. I did. When the time came to do my internship, I started working with a friend who translated books for a Christian publisher. I knew I wanted to do that for the rest of my life!
Three years later I started collaborating as a freelance translator with Thomas Nelson, Zondervan and other Christian publishers, and since June of 2009, when my journey with books began, I have translated over 70 books. Each book has been a gift from God! I am so thankful for each and every book and author I have translated.
Wow, what an amazing path your journey you have had. I’m glad you listened to that voice. And I’m so delighted with the way you translated LOVE IS KIND. What is your process for translating a book?
First of all, thank you, Laura! I enjoyed so much translating LOVE IS KIND!
When I get a book to translate, I normally read about the author first to get into their world –I find it very important to immerse into the world of the author. Next, I read through the book in the original language to get familiar with the book as well.
Then, each day as I sit down with the text, I pray for my job to be excellent, and for God’s grace to be able to convey the heart of the author for their audience in the translation.
When I finish translating the book, which might take a couple of weeks or months, depending on the genre, the length and the topic of the book, I do a first read-through to check any grammar mistakes or anything that I might have missed. Then I do a more profound check to edit it, to find a better word I could have used, and to polish the whole text. Finally I print the text to do a final proofreading because sometimes there are mistakes or typos that are not visible for the eye on a screen!
Before turning in my work to the publisher, I pray again for the book and the author. It is a blessing to translate such wonderful material to make it available for people around the world! And I always get giddy when I get the book in my hands and see it in print for the first time!
It strikes me that, as an author, I go through many of the same steps as you do to make sure that each word is just right and captures the heart of the story I’m telling. Thank you for sharing your process.
What challenges do you face when translating a book?
Every book sets a challenge for the translator –but these are lovely challenges! There are books that set a challenge in terms of formatting, others set a challenge in terms of the topic or the nature of the text. There are books that present a challenge for the translator when the original material hasn’t been edited or proofread, and the translator needs to re-edit the translated book so it can be easily read in the target language.
“El amor es bondadoso” was a challenge in terms of rhythm and vocabulary. When translating a book for children, you need to find words that a child can understand, without breaking the feel or the style of the author. That is why a translator must love words and be a good reader! In this case I found a lovely “song” in the prose that I didn’t want to disrupt. So, in this case, the challenge was to try to reproduce the song, the rhythm, and to come up with an ideal term in Spanish for a couple of places where you made up words.
The example that stands out is “tooth-er-ific” which appears in the scene where Beaver finds Little Owl’s coins and thinks the tooth fairy brought them. Beaver is so happy that Little Owl decides to let him keep the money and wishes him a “tooth-er-ific” day. Fortunately, in this case I found two words in Spanish that mean exactly the same. Tooth: diente. Terrific: grandioso, magnífico, genial. I chose “magnifico”, as it merged better with “diente”. So, the word I chose was: dientífico!
I love that word! It’s so much fun and definitely in keeping with the feel of the story. And here’s a picture of both the English and Spanish pages featuring “tooth-er-fic” and “dientífico“in case readers are curious for a peek:
As you reflect upon your time translating the book, is there a special moment in EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO that is your favorite?
Yes! Little Owl’s soft heart made me cry! I cried from the very first page, because Little Owl had saved his coins to honor his Grandma on her birthday. I too have a very close connection with my Grandma and love that Little Owl honored his Grandma –which is something that children need to learn and to live now: a culture of honor.
Little Owl’s honest heart also impacted me so much– to sacrifice for the other. When he could have spent his money to finally buy Grammy her gift, he instead used it for the good of Mrs. Mouse and her baby! (I cried again!) And why do we do all those things? For love.
Little Owl, as Grammy said, spread love everywhere he went. I think sometimes we think that to love is to do something outrageous, when in fact, simple love can make the most impact. Being together is love. I was impacted by the message of selfless love that we need so much in this time.
And… the illustrations are sooo lovely! They melted my heart! I really enjoyed so much translating your book, Laura! Thank you for writing such a delightful book!
Oh, thank you, Danaé. And I hope Little Owl’s heart melts others hearts as well, so that love and kindness overflow.
One last question before we close. In addition to translating, you are also an author. Tell us about your book(s). Any other works in the pipeline?
I LOVE books, but I never thought I would become an author! About seven years ago, I wrote a book about what God has done in my life. I was bullied when I was little and lived through several things that threatened to hinder His purposes for me. I didn’t know who I was, and accepted so many different names, such as failure, loneliness, depression, suicide… and those were not mine to take! But God worked through those trials to show me who I am in Him and fulfill His purpose for my life. The title of my first book is “When He Called My Name”. It’s currently only in Spanish, but I am working on translating it. Woven into the text are stories of Bible characters who went through trials that showed them who they were in God.
I am currently writing my second and third books. My second book is going to be a follow-up on the first book and the third book is going to talk about prayer, and the importance of knowing the Word of God, and how to pray the Word of God –a journey I started with God 7 years ago.
Thank you, Danaé, for sharing your journey with us today. It’s been fascinating to get an inside look into all that goes into translating a book. You remind me a bit of dear Little Owl, for like him, you put all your heart into your work, be it writing or translating. Thank you for blessing your readers in this way.
TWO LAST THINGS: First please tune in this Wednesday, April 1st at 7pm ET for my Facebook Live! reading of EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO over the the Vida Editorial Facebook page. Here’s the lovely graphic they created for that:
Finally… THE GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy EL AMOR ES BONDADOSO (Vida Editorial, December 2019) post a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. mailing address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway is sponsored by Vida Editorial and ends Monday, 4/6/20 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced next week!
Today I am delighted to welcome debut picture book author Jean Matthew Hall as my guest with an interview as we celebrate the release of her picture book GOD’S BLESSINGS OF FALL, published by Little Lamb Books and beautifully illustrated by Olya Badulina. The book is part of the four part Bountiful Blessings series. And this interview is part of a larger blog tour. To check out the full tour list, visit Jean’s blog at https://jeanmatthewhall.com/gods-blessings-of-fall/.
Thank you for joining us today, Jean. Let’s get started with my questions in autumn orange to match the beautiful fall palette of your book’s charming cover.
Have you always been a writer? Tell us a little bit about your writerly journey.
As a child I enjoyed drawing and designing more than writing. As an adult I found myself writing many articles and handbooks for my job. It became fun. Then, when I started writing stories it really became fun!
I started writing for publication around 2007. I’ve been studying and having some success since then. God’s Blessings of Fall is my first picture book to be published. This manuscript was one of the first I worked on. I wrote the first draft in 2009.
Writing for publication is a S-L-O-W process. There is much to learn.
You are so right about the slowness of the process, but good things are worth waiting for and working towards patiently. Thanks for for that reminder, Jean!
What inspired you to writeGod’s Blessings of Fall?
I am enamored with God’s created world. I enjoy observing the changes in the seasons. So, following the adage “write what you know”, watching my four-year old grandson running around the yard chasing leaves on a crisp autumn day was the spark for this story.
I’m so glad you were intentional and recognized his joyful play as the spark to a story.
Can you tell us about the illustrator? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?
Olya Badulina lives in Russia with her husband and two children. She used her favorite medium for God’s Blessings of Fall –watercolors. She has illustrated books for authors around the world.
My favorite spread is the first one in the book. The animals are adorable throughout the book, but the barn, the golden fields and falling leaves just shout fall to me.
It was surreal holding the book and seeing the animals and scenes that had been living in my head for years. I felt both proud and humble at the same time. It was a feeling of real accomplishment to see my vision and the illustrator’s vision come together to make a lovely book.
In my experience that feeling never gets old!
What advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids?
Live your faith in front of your kids. Let them witness your faith living and at work in your day-to-day life. It shouts authenticity to them. And THAT is what attracts your children to live that kind of faith-filled life. Be careful that your words line up with your actions and attitiudes.
Beautiful advice! Yes!
Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Where can readers find your books?
God’s Blessings of Fall is the first in the four-book Bountiful Blessings series. Books featuring the other seasons will come over the next 18 months. I also have several holiday stories trying to find homes with interested publishers. Praying that will happen soon!
Thanks, Laura, for helping me share the good news about God’s Blessings of Fall.
Thank YOU, Jean, for sharing your story here and along with your wonderful wisdom for laying good faith foundations for our little ones. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I look forward to seeing your other books on shelves everywhere!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jean Matthew Hall has spent most of her life singing songs, reading books, playing games, cutting, coloring and gluing with children of all ages. And, she loves it! Creating encouraging board books and picture books is her idea of fun, but her favorite times are spent with her eight grandchildren.
Jean’s picture book God’s Blessings of Fall debuted in September 2019. It is the first in her Bountiful Blessings series about the four seasons.
You can contact Jean or learn more about her here:
Now for the GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of GOD’S BLESSINGS OF FALL (Little Lamb Books, September 2019) simply post a comment below letting me know that you’d like to enter. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 10/31/19 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The winner is announced here. Thank you to all who entered.
Today I’m delighted to have best-selling picture book author Glenys Nellist as my guest to chat about her new release THE WONDER THAT IS YOU, illustrated by Aurelie Blanz and published by Zonderkidz. Here’s the captivating flap copy: “Every parent dreams of celebrating the arrival of their new child. This heartwarming picture book captures the moment that dream comes true. Filled with tender emotion and joy, THE WONDER THAT IS YOU is the perfect way to tell your little one how much they are loved.” This dreamy picture book will surely tug at the heartstrings of parents and parents-to-be. Get a sneak peek with this delightful book trailer and then enjoy the interview with my questions in green to match the cover!
Thank you for joining us today, Glenys. Even though you are a return guest, I think my readers would love to hear again a little bit about yourself and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.
Hi Laura! Thanks for having me! I’m originally from England, where I was a primary school teacher, and I’ve always loved writing. But It wasn’t until 2000, when I relocated to the United States with my husband, who is a pastor, that my publishing journey really began. I became a Children’s Ministry Director at our small church and part of my job was to buy curriculum. It was expensive, and so I decided to write my own. As I was writing Bible stories for the teachers to use, the idea came to me to try to write a children’s Storybook Bible. I actually gave up half way through, but my husband encouraged me to finish it. LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD was my first book, published five years ago. I’ve never looked back since.
What inspired you to write THE WONDER THAT IS YOU?
On the night my eldest son was born, thirty-five years ago, I fell asleep in my hospital bed in England with my baby son in the crib beside me. During the night I had THE most amazing dream. I was flying upwards in the dark and landed on a rooftop, where I swung my legs like a little girl, overflowing with happiness because my baby had been born. I clearly remember seeing the moon and the stars, and it was as if they were rejoicing along with me. THE WONDER THAT IS YOU captures the idea that perhaps all creation rejoices when a new baby is born, or joins the family. The strangest thing about this story is that when my husband came, three days later, to take us home, I glanced back at the hospital as we were leaving It was only then that I saw the flat roof above, and recognized all the windows I had flown past that night. I realized that THIS was the building I had been sitting on that night. As crazy as it seems, I know that it was no dream. It was real.
Wow, what an amazing dream! I love the image of all creation rejoicing at the birth of each precious child.
The illustrations really add to the dreamy feeling of your lovely lyrical text. Tell us a little bit about the artist. Do you have a favorite spread? What makes it your favorite?
French illustrator Aurelie Blanz is wonderful! I just couldn’t believe how she had taken my words and brought them to life in such breathtaking images. Honestly, every spread is amazing, but if I had to pick just one, it would have to be the one that accompanies these words: It felt as if my love took flight And soared into the air, And joined creation’s welcome song As you were lying there. In this spread, a girl is flying high with the butterflies.. that’s ME!
Since the wonder and awe of being new parents is one of the beautiful themes of the book, I wondered if you had any advice for brand new parents who might be feeling exhausted/overwhelmed – albeit overjoyed.
Well, as one who had four children under the age of five, I remember well the feeling of exhaustion that can overwhelm moms as they juggle daily tasks. But I would say, in spite of the challenges and daily grind, try to enjoy your time with your little ones as much as you can. It truly does fly by! Read a lot. Laugh a lot. Spend time doing things together and make memories, because no one can take your memories away.
Wonderful advice! Hard to do sometimes, in the midst of the exhausted moment, but so worth it.
Finally, this has been a very busy year book-wise for you. Tell us a little bit about your new books. Are there any upcoming projects in the works?
With six titles published this year, 2019 has been my busiest year to date! Later this year I have two board books coming out in my Good News series, published by Discovery House. GOOD NEWS! GOD MADE ME! and GOOD NEWS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! will hit the shelves October 2nd. Then, in 2020, along with the board book version of THE WONDER THAT IS YOU, I have two picture books coming with Beaming Books that I’m really excited about. LITTLE MOLE FINDS HOPE will release in February, followed by LITTLE MOLE’S LITTLE GIFT in the fall. I sometimes can’t believe how all this happened… but it did, and I am so very grateful.
It’s been a prolific journey! I can’t wait to read each and every of your upcoming titles and wish you continued success. Thank you for stopping by today.
GLENYS NELLIST: Glenys Nellist was born and raised in a little village in northern England. The author of multiple children’s books, including the bestselling ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas and the popular series Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time, her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David.
And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Zonderkidz!)
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of THE WONDER THAT IS YOU written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Aurelie Blanz, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. street address (no P.O. Boxes) and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 9/10/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. The winner is announced here.
Join me in welcoming talented picture book author, Amy Houts, whose brand new picture book, GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books), debuts TODAY! This charming faith-based story is a soothing read, and a great conversation starter with little ones about God’s protective care. With sparse text and clever rhymes, it’s a delight. I can’t wait to share it with my Sunday School kids! And now for the interview with my questions in bold.
1.Thanks so much for joining us today, Amy, and congratulations your newest faith-based picture book. Is it true that this is your 70th published book! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your prolific journey into the world of children’s book writing.
Thank you, Laura, for having me. Yes, it’s true that I have over authored over 70 children’s books. Most of them were written on assignment for educational publishers. They often ask for a series of books on a specific topic or featuring a specific character. For example, I wrote four books about pets (dog, cat, rabbit, and goldfish) for a South Korean publisher, Compass Publishing. I was asked to write five books featuring the cartoon character, Dora the Explorer. So, it adds up! Plus, I’ve been writing for many years beginning when I was at home with my baby girl, Emily. Now Emily is a busy mother of three young children.While I love writing on assignment, a book based on my own, original idea, such as God’s Protection Covers Me, means so much.
2. GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME charmingly depicts God’s constant care over, not just children, but all creation. What inspired you to write GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME using animal homes as your concrete visual?
I was inspired to write this book because of the concern I feel as a mother and grandmother. I’m a worrier! But I longed to feel calmer. Looking to God for strength, knowing that He protects us, heart and soul and spirit, gave me comfort. Often, writing helps me work through my feelings. The comparison of an umbrella keeping the rain off and a roof overhead seemed to me to be the perfect symbol to explain to a child (and to myself) how God’s protection works. The text is soothing and reassuring.
3. David Creighton-Pester’s illustrations are delightfully concrete and colorful to match your simple, yet comforting, text. Can you tell us a little bit about him? What was it like seeing your text come to full color with illustrations? Do you have a favorite spread?
David Creighton-Pester is an illustrator and graphic designer from Hamilton, New Zealand, where he lives with his wife and two young children. His website https://wanderingbert.com/ states that his interest in art started early: “Inspired as a child by picture books, animation, and all things arty, David spent endless hours drawing crazy characters and coming up with silly stories.”
I’m overjoyed that my editor at Beaming Books paired my text with David’s artwork. The first time I saw the cover and interior spread, I couldn’t help smiling. David gave life to my words. His child-like style and vibrant colors welcome the reader in.
My favorite spread shows mother and son under the umbrella—nearly home as rain pours down—while the dog and a mouse watch from their protective covering. The rhythm and rhyme of the text is how I began writing the book: “Like a roof protects a house or a crawl space for a mouse…”
4. Besides reading wonderful picture books such as this, what advice would you give parents and caregivers who want to share their faith with their kids?
Start with something kids know or are familiar with (like an umbrella) and move to something unfamiliar or harder to explain (like God’s protection). Similies and comparisons help to illustrate a concept. Focus on a feeling, like peace, comfort, or safety, and how that relates to something physical like drinking hot cocoa, being wrapped in a blanket, or watching the rain out the window.
5. Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
I’m always working on picture book manuscripts in all stages of development from a few lines, to a first draft, to polishing, to submission. Upcoming in 2020, four books written on assignment for educational publisher, Rubicon/Pearson, will be released. You can also read and act out my Bible fingerplays in each 2019 issue of Children’s Ministry Magazine. My books are sold through amazon.com, christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, and more. Visit my website http://amyhouts.com to find out more about my work.
Thank you so much for stopping by and for writing this delightful book! (And readers, don’t forget to enter the giveaway below.)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Houts is an award-winning author of over 70 children’s books, cookbooks, and board games that feature family themes of love and friendship, holiday celebrations, and early learning concepts. Her books include The Giant Book of Bible Fingerplays for Preschoolers(Group Publishing), which features 101 fingerplays, Bible stories, and Scripture verses. It’s a joy for Amy to share Bible truths and God’s love with young children through her writing. Amy and her husband, Steve, live in rural Northwest Missouri,an hour from Steve’s family farm. They are the parents of two grown daughters and three grandchildren.
Twitter: @AmyHouts Instagram: @AmyHouts
And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Amy!)
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Tuesday 5/28/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day! THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. TO SEE WHO WON PRESS HERE.
Today I am delighted to be doing a joint interview with picture book author Danielle Dufayet and illustrator Jennifer Zivoin. YOU ARE YOUR STRONG (Magination Press, 2019) is Danielle’s debut work. Jennifer has illustrated many books, but this is their first collaboration. Thanks so much for joining us today.
From the Front Flap: “YOU ARE YOUR STRONG is an empowering exploration of children’s emotions that will develop self-awareness, peace and calm. With diverse characters and scenes featuring a range of different family relationships…the book shows kids that they will have help along the way to being strong and in control.”
Now for the interview with my questions bolded.
Laura: Please tell us a little bit about yourselves and your journey into the world of children’s book writing/illustrating.
Danielle: I was not a reader as a child –too busy running outside and climbing trees! I wasn’t read to either – just wasn’t a tradition in our household, but before you feel sorry for me…I am now a published children’s book author!! I always loved writing, however, even as I child. I’d write poems to express my feelings and observations. When I graduated high school I told myself I wanted to be a children’s book author. I read an awesome picture book by Lilian Moore (Little Raccoon and the thing in the Pool). I was blown away by its simplicity and deep message – all executed in the sweetest, most entertaining way! I thought, I’m going to do that too!
Jennifer: I have always been attracted to visual storytelling, and originally thought that I wanted to pursue animation. However, illustration turned out to be the perfect fit for me. I love being able to conceptualize and then bring to life the entire visual world of each book, from the character designs to the settings to the lighting in each piece. I began illustrating children’s books in 2006 when I was chosen as the artist for the “Pirate School” books by Brian James. A few years later I signed with my agent Mela at MB Artists, and have been illustrating books and children’s projects ever since.
Laura: So interesting, Danielle, that you weren’t a reader, but clearly always a keen observer and participant in all the wonders of the world – climbing trees etc. That is so key to writing! And, wow, Jennifer, what a great journey into the field and I’m also particularly grateful to have had one of my magazine pieces illustrated by you!
Danielle, can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind this book?
Danielle: The inspiration behind this book was: Life (going through a difficult situation where I was feeling mad, sad, scared and worried all at once.) and Art: I saw the movie, Room, in which a 5 year old boy (played by Jacob Tremblay) tells his mom his (long) hair is his strong. Later, he cuts it off to give to his mom who’s had a nervous breakdown. It made me ask myself: what is my strong? Turns out, I am my strong –we all are our own strong! And sharing strong is good!
Laura: And such a good message it is!
Jennifer, you have illustrated over 30 picture books. What drew you to Danielle’s YOU ARE YOUR STRONG?
Jennifer: The editors at Magination Press selected me as the illustrator for “You Are Your Strong,” and when I received the manuscript, I loved the way that the text made me feel. The words were empowering and poetic. Since the text focused heavily on emotions, there was tremendous freedom for me to explore how I wanted to create characters and environments.
Laura: And you did an amazing job! One of the most striking aspects of your illustrations, in addition to your wonderfully charming and diverse depiction of children, is your sweeping use of color to capture each emotion. Tell us about this choice. How did you choose your colors?
Jennifer: First, I chose a color palette for the whole book. Then from that palette I selected only about 4 colors for each page – a main color representing the emotion, an accent color to make the character stand out, and usually two other colors that blended nicely with my other choices. For example, pages about sadness were filled with shades of blue while pages about anger were bright red. Then, I used light and the color strokes to define the atmosphere, movement and energy of each page. For pages in which the emotion is directed externally towards another person or the environment, the lighting and movement were bold and energetic. For emotions that were directed inwardly and were more contemplative, the scenes were softer.
Laura: This is so interesting and I’m delighted that the publisher has permitted us to share one of your interiors so readers can get an idea of what we are talking about. In this illustration you use red to depict anger.
Laura: Danielle, teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum or extend the enjoyment with post-reading activities. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?
Danielle: I have a handout that kids can fill in as to what their strong is. It asks: what are the things that bring out the happy, calm, brave and gentle already in you? The key word is already. I want kids to know they already have everything they need inside of them!
Laura: Sounds great! And I would also add that your book also includes wonderful “Note to Parents and Caregivers” by Julia Martin Burch, PhD which includes thoughtful tips and suggestions for helping children handle strong emotions.
Finally, for both of you, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline? Also, where can interested readers find your books?
Danielle: I have a couple of manuscripts out on submission and I’m working on a funnier picture book right now about impulse control, friendship and the love of picture books!
Jennifer: I am currently creating the artwork another of Danielle’s titles through Magination Press, which readers can look forward to in the next year! In addition to this forthcoming publication, I am keeping busy illustrating several other book projects. I am also excited to have finished a dummy for my first authored/illustrated picture book, which I hope to see on bookstore shelves someday.
Thank you BOTH so much for stopping by today and I wish you the greatest success with this new book.Learn more about Danielle and Jennifer below.
Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12. Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling. Thirty-five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true and she’ll have TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and managing big emotions, called You Are Your Strong and the other, Fantastic You!, about self-love/compassion.
Jennifer Zivoin has always loved art and storytelling, so becoming an illustrator was a natural career path. She has been trained in media ranging from figure drawing to virtual reality, and earned her bachelor of arts degree with highest distinction from the honors division of Indiana University. During her professional career, Jennifer worked as a graphic designer and then as a creative director before finding her artistic niche illustrating children’s books. When she is not creating art in her studio, her favorite hobbies include drinking cocoa while reading a good book, swimming on hot summer days, and spending time outside with her family.