THE POWER OF SETTING: Thoughts on Making Picture Books Shine

Setting Collage 5:13:18This morning, I am honored to be guest blogging over at picture book author Danna Smith’s blog, Picture Book Playlist. Today’s topic?  The power of SETTING to make a picture book story SHINE. So, I hope you refill that delicious cup of coffee you’re sipping right now and pop on over for a read.  I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link.  Thank you for having me, Danna!

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GUEST POST: FIVE Fun FACTS about TWO FUN NEW BOOKS from Best-Selling Author GLENYS NELLIST! (AND A GIVEAWAY!)

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Today I’m delighted to feature the wonderful Glenys Nellist as my guest. Glenys is the author 12 fabulous books – including her best-selling LOVE LETTERS FROM GOD series with five books out and more on the way.  She’s also the author of the adorable SNUGGLE TIME series.  Last December, she was here for an interview to celebrate the release of her clever and gorgeous ‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS, a heart-warming Christmas tale told to the cadence of Clement C. Moore’s famous poem. And today we’re here to celebrate the release of two darling rhyming board books that celebrate the special bonds between and mothers/children and fathers/children. With simple rhyming text and sweet illustrations, these are sure to be a perennial hit.  And now, as a fun way of introducing the books, here’s Glenys with FIVE FUN FACTS about the books. (And be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!) Take it away, Glenys!

FIVE Fun Facts About GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL & GOD MADE DADDY SPECIAL

by Glenys Nellist

FUN FACT #1: They Weren’t my Idea!

That’s right—you did read that correctly… GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL and GOD MADE DADDY SPECIAL were not my idea! Almost three years ago I pitched a new children’s book manuscript to my editor and anxiously awaited her response. When it came, it went something like this:  

Hi Glenys, thanks for submitting your new book proposal. Unfortunately, it’s not a good fit for us at the moment. However… I am looking for new titles featuring mommies & daddies. If you have any ideas for those sorts of books, I’ll be happy to take a look.

Any author would be crazy not to give their editor what they are looking for… and the books were born! Now, whenever my editor and I meet for lunch, I always ask her this five-word question: What are you looking for? Then I come home and try to write it.

FUN FACT #2: Why the Mommy Cover Has a Heart-Shaped ‘O’…

Take a peek at the cover of GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL…

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Can you guess why the ‘O’ is heart-shaped? It’s because in England, where I’m from, and where I’ll shortly be marketing the book, we don’t say Mom. Instead, we say Mum. So the marketing team at Zonderkidz decided to shape the ‘O’ so that it could also be seen as a ‘U’. Aren’t they clever?

FUN FACT #3: The Books Can Be Used in a Fun Guessing Game

One of my favorite things to do as an author is to visit schools and read to children. With these books, I’ve found a wonderful guessing game that children LOVE to participate in. Before showing them the pictures, I read each poem and they have to guess the animal. Listen carefully, I tell them. The clues are in the words. 

Try it with your little one. Read this poem and have them guess the daddy animal. (Answer below)

Come and meet my daddy

He stands up nice and tall.

And even though he’s on one leg,

I’ve never see him fall.

Every time I wobble,

He helps me stand up straight.

God made Daddy special—

He’s really, really great!

FUN FACT #4: The Illustrations are Better Than I Imagined

It’s a very scary thing for an author to hand their manuscript over and trust that the illustrator will be a good fit. I needn’t have worried at all with these books!  Estelle Corke did a FABULOUS job, especially with Daddy Skunk, which is my favorite part of the daddy book! 20170621_161622.jpg

FUN FACT #5: There Might Be a Grandma and Grandpa Version in the Wings…

Sshh… don’t tell anyone, but I already have GOD MADE GRANDMA SPECIAL and GOD MADE GRANDPA SPECIAL written in my head! Depending on sales of the mommy and daddy books, then I’m hoping that Grandma and Grandpa will be joining them on the shelves… fingers crossed for that!

Thank you, Glenys, for those five fun facts.  And best wishes for your continued success! 

AUTHOR PHOTOBIO: Coordinator of Children’s Ministry for the West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church. Zondervan children’s book author of twelve titles, including two popular series: Love Letters from God and Snuggle Time. Glenys is a writer with a passion for God, her family, and children’s ministry. Find out more about Glenys and her books here:

 

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  two-book bundle that includes one copy each of GOD MADE MOMMY SPECIAL and GOD MADE DADDY SPECIAL both written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Estelle Corke, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Monday, 5/21/18 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!

Finally… the answer to the poem in FUN FACT #3 is:  Daddy Flamingo!

GUEST POST: Zonderkidz Author DENETTE FRETZ with SIX Extension Activities for I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE!

CoverToday I’m delighted to feature SIX  AUTHOR-CREATED EXTENSION ACTIVITIES in celebration of the release of Christian picture book author Denette Fretz’s adorable new picture book, I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, published by Zonderkidz and illustrated by Jacki Urbanovic.  Not only is Denette a skilled children’s author, with a gift for creating stories that are fun and thought-provoking, she’s also a teacher – so her extension activities, many of them faith-based, are teacher tested and approved!

As you will see from the book trailer, I WANT YOUR CROCODILE SMILE is a clever tale of self-acceptance, starring Jack, the Meerkat, who covets all the things his zoo friends have but ultimately discovers that true contentment is only found when we accept and embrace that we are each created beautifully according to God’s perfect, purposeful design.  Enjoy the book trailer, then treat yourself  (and your kids) to Denette’s rich offering of extension activities.  Zonderkidz is also offering a GIVEAWAY so be sure to check out details for how to enter at the end of the post. Take it away, Denette!

SIX Extension Activities for I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Laura! I hope your readers and their children enjoy these activities together.

1. Become a meerkat expert.  I Want Your Smile, Crocodile follows a spunky meerkat, Jack, who thinks he would be happier if he were more like his zoo friends.  With an adult’s help, follow these video links to begin learning more about meerkats:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=efRGPz1BQ6Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rml2Z2ytjAE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlOfIjP5-e8

2. Print and complete a meerkat word search. Now that you know more about meerkats, can you solve Jack’s clues to find thirteen meerkat words? If you get stumped, the words you are looking for are printed at the bottom of this post.

Word Search for Laura Blog JPEG

3. Read about animal features. In I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, Jack wants a crocodile smile, polar bear fur, and an elephant’s “hose nose.” What if you had animal teeth? Animal hair? An animal’s nose? Discover amazing animal facts by reading these fascinating picture books by Sandra Markle:

What if You Had Animal Teeth?

What if You Had Animal Hair? 

What if You Had An Animal Nose?

4. Design an imaginary animal. Jackie Urbanovic illustrated I Want Your Smile, Crocodile and did a fabulous job giving Jack the Meerkat jellyfish swish, porcupine spines, or an elephant’s trunk. What animals would you combine to create a new one? Print and use the template below to draw your imaginary animal. I thought this would be fun to try…and drew a “piggock!”

Piggock ScanDrawing Page for Laura Blog JPEG

5. Follow the zookeeper. Start at the beginning of I Want Your Smile, Crocodile, and follow the zookeeper through its pages. What is he doing? How is the zookeeper acting like Jesus?

6. Discuss scriptures about God’s design. Below are the “foundation scriptures” I kept in mind when writing I Want Your Smile, Crocodile. Read each scripture. How does each scripture relate to the story? Most importantly, how does each scripture relate to YOU?

  • Genesis 1:31
  • Psalm 139:14
  • Ephesians 2:10

Thanks so much for these WONDERFUL extension ideas, Denette! Enjoy another I Want Your Smile, Crocodile activity next week, when the Blog Tour stops by Rebecca J. Gomez’s site for a “Read, Discuss, Do” activity…and another chance to win a book! 

Answers for Word Search:

1.  MONGOOSE  2. SENTRY  3. MOB, CLAN, GANG  4. BURROWS  5. KALAHARI  6. CLAWS  7. INSECTS, SPIDERS, SCORPIONS, SNAKES  8. PUPS

120427-82028_cropBIO: Denette Fretz is an elementary art educator and picture book author who desires to craft humorous, inventive, and memorable parables that engage imagination and encourage life-application of biblical principles. She is the author of PIRATES ON THE FARM (Zonderkidz, 2013), CONRAD, THE COWGIRL NEXT DOOR (Zonderkidz, 2014) and I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE (Zonderkidz, 2018

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!!

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of I LOVE YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, written by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident with a street address (as opposed to a P.O. Box and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 5/10/18 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced on Friday 5/11/18! THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. WINNER POSTED HERE.

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE Blog Tour: FINAL STOP!

IMG_6392“Rain drops on roses and whiskers….” Ahh, I never grow tired of singing “My Favorite Things” from THE SOUND OF MUSIC. And now I’m singing away because I just LOVE the theme of the last and final stop of the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour. Thanks so much, Kerry Aradhya of Picture Books and Pirouettes, for putting together this lovely and creative post ! Happy reading all!

 

GUEST POST with DANNA SMITH: My Journey from Reading Little Golden Books to Writing Them

Springtime Babies Cover HRFinally, spring is in the air!  I hear the birds chirping at sunrise. There’s a robin family building a nest in my neighbor’s tree.  The cherry blossoms are about to burst. It’s perfect timing to welcome today’s guest blogger, picture book author Danna Smith, in celebration of the release of her new springtime book, SPRINGTIME BABIES, published by Little Golden Books. Today she’ll be sharing her journey from reading Little Golden Books as a child to now writing them! Thank you so much for stopping by, Danna.  Take it away!

Wonders of NatureMost Americans can remember growing up with Little Golden Books, those little gems that captured our hearts at the store while our parents shopped. Books like The Poky Little Puppy, Scuffy the Tugboat and my favorite, Wonders of Nature, caught our attention with their distinctive gold foil spines, colorful illustrations, and exciting adventures. The first 12 Little Golden Book titles hit the shelves in 1942 during wartime when picture books were expensive, and money was scarce. At 25 cents, Little Golden Books were affordable for everyone. Today, with hundreds of titles available they continue to delight, and are still affordable—at about the price of a greeting card!

Little Golden Books aren’t just for children; adults love them too. Collectors rummage through piles of books at thrift shops and garage sales looking to find that illustrious 25 cent first edition to add to their collection. I have a small but beloved collection of my own.

Springtime Babies Cover HRImagine my delight when my agent called with news that I had an offer from Little Golden Books and then again with offers for three more books! I had to pinch myself! I remember scribbling my name in many Little Golden Books throughout my childhood. Reading was a joy and these little books were like friends. Joining the Little Golden Book family of authors and artists is a dream come true.

While I had initially written Springtime Babies as a picture book, it turned out to be perfect for Little Golden Books. Editor and author, Diane Muldrow, worked with me to cut the text from 32 pages to 24. Next, it was time for the illustrator to work her magic. When I saw the sketches and then the final color images, I was in love! Artist, Takako Fisher, did a fantastic job. I couldn’t be more pleased with her adorable, chunky animal (and human) babies.

springtime babies. pig is in a puddle

Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Takako Fisher

Springtime Babies. Babies with the farmers

Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Takako Fisher

Golden Books works about three years out which means if you sold a manuscript today in 2018, the book would most likely publish in 2020 or 2021. If you want to try your hand at writing a Little Golden Book, my advice is to draft a conceptually strong story perfect for a young audience of 2–5-year-olds. Your manuscript should be highly visual (illustratable) and original or at least have a fresh take on a familiar subject. A hook that can tie into an event or special day such as Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day is also a plus. Be sure to study the Little Golden Books line to make certain your idea is fresh. Paginating your manuscript in the way you see it published will not only help you better visualize your story but will help the editors see your vision. If your agent calls you with an offer, pinch yourself then get ready to revise!

BIO:
Danna birds nest 2017

Danna Smith is the author of a dozen books for children. Her next Little Golden Book, Rocket-Bye Baby: A Spaceflight Lullaby releases in January 2019 followed by The Colors of Summer (May 2019) and The Colors of Winter (Oct 2019).  Danna is currently living in Northern California, where she is hard at work on her next book. You can find more about her and her books online here:

Website: www.dannasmithbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authordannasmith/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dannasmith8

Book Review Blog: https://picturebookplaylist.com/blog/

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE Blog Tour: Stop SEVEN

spring book eventsFor today’s stop on the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour, we have a special treat – a JOINT interview with illustrator Rebecca Gerlings! Joint interviews are extra special because they require extra coordination – especially when the illustrator is from the UK and the author is from NJ!  Thank you for having us, Kidlit411!  Here’s the link so you can pop on over.  (Oh, and there’s a giveaway too!) Happy reading!

FUN MAIL: Kindergartners Read and Respond to DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

IMG_6375What a delightful surprise to have this bright pink yarn-bound book arrive via special delivery right to my doorstep (Thank you, Mrs. Timberlake!) from the cute, hardworking kindergartners in Mrs. DeVestern’s classes at the Ben Franklin School in Edison, New Jersey.

It seems they’ve been learning all about authors, illustrators, picture books, and the magic of putting words and illustrations together.  And do my delight, after reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, they decided to write and illustrate their favorite parts of the story. The teacher gathered their responses in a book and had them delivered to me!

Thank you, Mrs. DeVestern and thank you, kindergartners!  You did a wonderful job picking the most important and best parts of the story. I shall treasure each and every one of your responses.  And now, I’d like to share just a sampling.  The last picture is, of course, my thank you note back to them!  Aren’t their illustrations and sentences wonderful?

Happy reading, all!

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Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse BLOG TOUR: Stop SIX

Version 2Interested in learning a bit more about the highs and lows of my writing journey, upcoming projects and more? Need a few words of writerly encouragement?  Then, head on over to today’s thoughtful interview at the The Writers’ Rumpus. I’ll make it easy for you.  Here’s the link. Thanks for having me!

PICTURE BOOK CRAFT: Feathered Fan inspired by DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!

DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERAHOUSE MOUSE

Thank you, Rebecca Gomez, for creating this fabulous feathered fan craft to go along with DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE. The activity also includes thoughtful suggestions for a “diva-themed” discussion with your child as well as ideas for using the fan to re-enact parts of the story.  You can check it out here or by clicking the image above.

A children’s author, poet, and fan of all things creative and fun, Rebecca enjoys sharing helpful tips and inspiration for readers and writers, occasional book reviews, and random musings about life.  Her picture books WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? (Atheneum, 2015) and HENSEL AND GRETEL NINJA CHICKS, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016).  Check out her wonderful website/blog to learn more.

I am adding the activity to the DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE extension activities tab above. Please check back periodically for more fun book-themed activities.

 

SCHOOL VISIT: Thank you, West End School of North Plainfield!

 

I LOVED sharing DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE with the amazingly attentive 280+ kindergarten- second graders at West End School in North Plainfield. It was my largest gathering to date, but that didn’t stop them from being fabulous listeners. How do I know? I know because they laughed at all the right parts and were sad and concerned at all the right parts. Moreover, both before and after the story, they were right with me as we chatted about where writers get their ideas and what it means to use our imaginations. And when I asked them about readerly things such as the story’s setting, characters, conflict and even theme, those hands shot up like lightning and the answers they provided were bright and on target as anything. In fact, they were such an attentive, inquisitive bunch, that I even opened the floor to questions!  

The visit was one of the culminating events for a month long celebration of reading and writing and I’d just like to close by complimenting the teachers. You are doing a wonderful job of instilling those sweet kids with a love of reading and writing and that makes my heart happy!

Thank you for having me, West End School, and thank you for organizing the event, Barnes and Noble (Springfield, NJ)

HAPPY READING AND WRITING, all!