GUEST POST: Five Fun BUSY BUS Facts With Jody Jensen Shaffer

IT'S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS cover from Amazon

Today I’m delighted to have my long-time friend and critique buddy, Jody Jensen Shaffer, here to share five fun facts about her newest picture book release, IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS!, illustrated by Claire Messer and published by Beach Lane Books.  Take a peek at the lovely reviews Jody’s book has received from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, then climb aboard and enjoy as she shares five behind-the-scenes facts about the book’s creation.  My favorite?  Fact #1. It’s a good reminder that patience is the name of the game in this business.  Happy reading, all!

FACT #1 The journey from idea to publication took eight years.
I got the original idea for BUSY BUS in October of 2010. I was brainstorming back-to-school stories [apparently, I like a challenge] and wondered how I could make mine stand out. When I landed on the idea of making it a school bus’s first day, I knew I was onto something. The story went through many, many revisions until it finally landed on Allyn Johnston’s desk at Beach Lane Books. Boy, was that a great day for me! In the months that followed, I worked with both Allyn and Andrea Welch.

FACT #2 I rode the bus to elementary school.
In the small town in which I grew up, the elementary school and my house were on nearly opposite sides of town. Sometimes a friend and I walked to school. But most of the time, I caught the bus in front of my house. I wasn’t always sure I would be safe riding the bus, however. There were icy mornings when I wondered if the bus would skid off the road. There were hills that I wondered if the bus could summit. To make matters worse, I was prone to motion sickness, so the shadows from the trees whizzing by my window made my stomach queasy. Thankfully, neither the bus nor I ever had an accident.

FACT #3 My school bus driver was also my neighbor.
In a small town, that happens. Taffy was my bus driver’s name, and he was also my next door neighbor. He and his wife, Dorothy, were grandparent-age, and I loved them dearly. I visited them regularly, and they always had some yummy treat to share.

FACT # 4 BUSY BUS is the “youngest” book I’ve published.
My previous picture books, PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW (illustrated by Steph Laberis) and A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK (illustrated by Daniel Miyares), both have more complicated plots and complex language than BUSY BUS. So to make a first-day-of-school book fit its intended audience, I needed to simplify the language and plot. That was tough! I kept thinking there wasn’t enough conflict in the book. But I reminded myself that conflict is in the eye of the beholder, and to children just starting school, there’s plenty to fret about.

FACT #5 I asked a local school bus driver how fast a bus goes.
Before BUSY BUS went to the printer, Andrea asked me if I knew how fast a school bus went. The illustrator, Claire Messer, was working on a spread that included the dashboard of Busy Bus, and they wondered if I knew what the top speed on a speedometer should read. So on one of my morning walks not long after, I saw a school bus driver parked in a parking lot. I explained I was writing a book about a school bus, and I needed to know how fast they went. She looked and said, “This one goes to 85.” I reported that to my editor, and the rest was picture book history!

Jody Jensen Shaffer author photoJody Jensen Shaffer is an award-winning poet and the author of more than 30 books of fiction and nonfiction for children, including PRUDENCE THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, IT’S YOUR FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, BUSY BUS! and more. Jody’s poetry has been published in great children’s magazines like Highlights, Ladybug, and Clubhouse Jr. Jody lives in Liberty, Missouri, and is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. When she’s not writing, Jody can be found watching baseball or walking her rescue dog, Sophie. Visit Jody at jodyjensenshaffer.com or on Twitter @jodywrites4kids.

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: STOP TWO!

9780310754893_imageToday children’s author Glenys Nellist is featuring LOVE IS KIND on her lovely blog.  Head on over there to read her review. Then keep reading as I share FIVE FUN FACTS about WRITING THE BOOK!  (Oh, and there’s also a giveaway!) So grab that cup of tea and head on over.  Happy reading, all!

And here’s the complete list of stops I’ll be making.  I hope you will join me each step of the way.  =)

Love is KInd Blog Tour Schedule

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with Lindsey McDivitt, Author of NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY

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Today I’m delighted to be interviewing picture book author Lindsey McDivitt in celebration of her debut picture book NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY. Published by Sleeping Bear Press and beautifully illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewe, NATURE’S FRIEND: THE GWEN FROSTIC STORY is an engaging picture book biography of the life of Gwen Frostic. Told with perfect pacing, it’s a celebration not only of the beauty and importance of respecting nature, but also of the strength of living with and overcoming disabilities. This is a must-have book and would make a great addition to any collection.  It’s a charming, thoughtful read and I loved it! Now, without further ado, please join me for this special interview with Lindsey with my questions in green to fit the nature theme.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Lindsey and congratulations on your delightful picture book debut. What inspired you to write Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story?

I so appreciate this opportunity, Laura! It’s pretty exciting to see my first picture book in print!

I grew up in Minnesota and my friends and I adored Gwen’s nature inspired greeting cards in high school in the 70’s. They matched our budding interest in the environmental movement so new back then.

When I moved to Michigan about 9 years ago I learned Gwen was from Michigan. When I later learned her printing shop was still open up north I began searching for information about her. The shop looked so fascinating in the brochure I spotted.

I love that you’ve been interested in the environmental movement since your teens and how that early love led you to choose Gwen as the focus of this book. What a great example of following your passion!

Once you decided that you wanted to tell Gwen’s story in picture book form, what was your research process like? Were there any amazing moments where you discovered something completely new to you? 

Very quickly I learned that Gwen had surmounted many challenges in her long life and I realized what an amazing role model she could be for both kids and adults. After working with stroke survivors for years in my earlier career, I knew the tenacity and perseverance required to surmount physical disability and Gwen never let it hold her back from her goals. 

I was really excited when I learned Gwen Frostic had been recognized in so many ways in her home state of Michigan, especially in an era when women were not encouraged to be business women. Gwen made millions of dollars as an artist! And at the same time she did what she could for our natural world when it was threatened. That was astonishing!

And you have continued that recognition and celebration of Gwen’s amazing life contributions through your book and now it and Gwen are being celebrated  yet again- as this amazing billboard you shared on social media attests. It’s the first billboard for a picture book that I’ve ever seen and I love it!

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Most of your text is written in creative nonfiction, but on many spreads you also have special text that is set apart in large and colorful fonts. Can you share with us why you chose this distinction? 

The special text you mention is mainly direct quotes from Gwen Frostic. The 22 books she wrote and illustrated herself were a gold mine of information. They really gave me a window into her feelings. It was the art director at Sleeping Bear Press that set the quotes apart in such a distinctive style I believe.

Eileen Ryan Ewen’s art invites the reader to step into nature through Gwen’s eyes in such a warm and charming way.  What was it like to work with Eileen?

Many people don’t realize that the illustrator is given lots of freedom to interpret the text. Author and illustrator rarely collaborate directly. In fact it’s not encouraged by the publisher. So it was fascinating to finally see first Eileen’s sketches, and then the art in color! I feel so fortunate! They are just magical—really drawing the reader into Gwen’s world.

Yes, Lindsey, that has been my experience as well.  And, Eileen did a wonderful job! She was the perfect pick for your story.

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?

There is a nature art activity in the back of the book that I hope kids will try. Also, some beautiful activity sheets are available both at my website and the publisher’s—Sleeping Bear Press.

These are WONDERFUL resources.  Be sure to check them out, dear readers!

Finally, what’s next? Are there more picture books and projects in the pipeline?  Also, where can interested readers find your books?

I do have another picture book biography under contract and I’m working on revisions with that editor. It will hopefully come out in a year or so. And many manuscripts in various states! Some I’m beginning to submit with fingers crossed—both fiction and non-fiction.

Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story is available in all the usual venues. I’d encourage readers to please consider ordering it from their local independent bookstore if it’s not on their shelves.

Oh, yes, I do think it’s important to support our wonderful local indies whenever possible and ordering books through them is a wonderful way to do just that!

 Thanks so much for this lovely interview, Lindsey. I wish you the very best and look forward to reading more of your books.

lindsey_thumbnailLearn more about Lindsey by connecting on the web:

FINALLY…. a VERY SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY to VISIT WITH LINDSEY!
If you are an educator, scout leader, etc. and are interested a free 20 minute Skype visit for your classroom or group with Lindsey, please indicate so in the comments below.  One lucky name will be drawn from the interested parties on Sunday, 8/5/2018 at 10 pm EST so be sure to comment before then.  (Must be at least 18 to enter.) Winner will be announced the following week and then I will put you in contact with Lindsey to work out the timing.

SNEAK PEEK: Love Is Kind (my newest picture book with Zonderkidz!)

Ready for a sneak peek at what arrived on my porch this afternoon? It’s an advance copy of my upcoming picture book LOVE IS KIND, delightfully illustrated by French artist Lison Chaperon and published by Zonderkidz. I just love the world Lison has created to set the story.  Each spread is more adorable than the next!  Thank you, Lison, for your creative whimsy and thank you, Zonderkidz, for publishing! I can’t wait for this one to release on August 7, 2018.   Happy reading, all!

LOVE IS KIND: Meet Little Owl!

67b2733c-1893-444b-bd74-cc780cde2842-11991-000007ad5ce2077dI haven’t received my advanced copy of LOVE IS KIND, so I can’t yet give you a proper advanced “flip through” of the book, but I think you’ll enjoy this delightful video clip, created by illustrator Lison Chaperon, introducing Little Owl, the sweet protagonist of LOVE IS KIND.  All Little Owl really wants is to get his grammy a box of chocolates, but his attempts keep getting thwarted.  In the process, though, he learns the true meaning of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13. Real love, as it turns out, isn’t found in a box – even one filled with chocolates. Now without further ado, meet Little Owl!  (Isn’t he adorable?)

 

FUN NEWS: LOVE IS KIND Cover Reveal!

9780310754893_image.jpgGuess what? I have another new picture coming out soon with Zonderkidz!  LOVE IS KIND is scheduled to release August 7, 2018,  which, gulp, is almost right around the corner.

Here’s the scoop from Zonderkidz:

“Love Is Kind, written by bestselling author Laura Sassi and illustrated by Lison Chaperon, tells the sweet story of Little Owl who discovers the real meaning of love on his quest to find his grammy the perfect gift. Told in simple prose, this heartfelt and humorous picture book is a sweet reminder that real love isn’t found in a box – even one filled with chocolates.  Love Is Kind takes a charming and gentle approach to teaching kids the true meaning of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13, while celebrating the bonds that kids have with their grandparents, and the many forms that love and happiness can take.”

Thank you, Zonderkidz publishing this next picture book (and I am especially excited about this one because LOVE is a message we can never hear enough about)!  And isn’t that Little Owl standing in that heart-shaped pile of leaves adorable?  I’ve seen the interior spreads too, and each illustration is cuter than the next. I can’t wait for this one to hit shelves everywhere.

Happy Reading!

INTERVIEW Fit for a DIVA: Thank you, 365 Cranford Westfield NJ!

Diva Delores and I are dee-lighted to share with you our first LOCAL interview. Pasted above is the fun promo clip, realtor Sharon Steele posted on Instagram. And here’s the link to the actual interview. Thank you for having us, Sharon!

And TODAY is our BOOK BIRTHDAY!!!  Happy Reading, all!

Happy Birthday Diva Delores! **

FUN MAIL: Picture Book Proofs!

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Look what arrived on my porch yesterday afternoon! A package from Sterling containing the proofs for DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE!  I’d seen the illustrations in little images on my computer screen, but seeing them full size and on paper makes my heart sing!

My daughter and I spent a nice long while exploring each and every page and enjoying all the little details that I hadn’t noticed before, such as Rebecca’s wonderful use of scratchy strokes to capture the old opera house floors and Delores’ extremely expressive whiskers.

Next stop, (I think), the printer!  Thank you, Sterling, and thank you, Rebecca Gerlings, for making this project a reality. I can’t wait for this Diva and her charming Opera House Mouse to make their debuts.  (Only 5 month and two weeks from now, but who’s counting? =) )

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE Review & Interview Featuring Two Kids, a Book, and Penny Parker Klostermann!

 

Today I’m extra excited because I get to be the host of a very special interview (with book review included)!  Please join me in welcoming picture book author Penny Parker Klostermann and young readers, James and Luke, ages 7 and 5, as they review Penny’s new book A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE (Random House Books for Young Readers,  September 5, 2017) and then interview the author in a special Author Spotlight.

Before we begin – I’d like to set the stage a little.  One hot afternoon in early July a shiny gold package – containing Penny’s charming new picture book – was mistakenly delivered to James’ and Luke’s doorstep.  Since they were greatly excited by the arrival of the package I said they could read it first. So they did and they LOVED it.  They kept asking and wanting to read the story again and again and it was actually quite some time before I got to see the book myself. Their enthusiasm inspired me and so, with their mother’s permission, I asked if they’d be interested in reviewing the book and interviewing the author for my blog!

They said yes! And the result is… well… delightful!   Thank you James, Luke and Penny!  Now on to the review and interview with the boys’ words in purple and Penny’s in green to match the bubbling cauldron on the book’s cover.

First, Penny’s response to how A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE was delivered to the wrong house:

I have to say that I’m in love with this delivery mishap and the events that followed. In A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE, there is a delivery mishap too and it’s essential to the story. Not only is there this wonderful delivery mishap coincidence, but also because Laura let the boys read the book first, there’s a fun “kid review” of my book! And isn’t a “kid review” the absolute best and most important kind of review possible? It makes me smile from ear-to-ear that James and Luke loved A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE enough to spend time with it, write a review, and even create their own art. This is definitely a happily-ever-after moment for me as an author.

Next,  the review:.

IMG_5175IMG_5176 A BOOK REVIEW BY JAMES

 

Title: A COOKED UP FAIRY TALE

Author:  Penny Parker Klostermann

“This book is about a boy named William that LOVED to cook!  William loved to cook so much that he used the ingredients from the fairy tales and when the fairy tales began, what William cooked messed up the fairy tales. What I thought was funny about this book was the William tried working at Gingerbread-on-the-go.  I would recommend this book!” 

 

James’s review is a treasure. Now that this book is out in the world it’s no longer mine. But when I wrote it there were certain things I hoped readers would take away when they read it. I’m excited that James thought about William just as I did when I created his character. I love that he found humor in the story. And I especially love that he recommends A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE!

And now… the interview with authentic kid questions! (Thanks, again, boys!)

Where did you get the idea for the book? 

I love David Ezra Stein’s book, INTERRUPTING CHICKEN. I think it’s so fun the way he used well-known fairy tales to tell a tale of his own. I wondered if I could come up with an idea for a story that would include fairy tales but be a story of its own. I researched by listing fairy tales and their common elements. While doing this I noticed how many fairy tales have food in them and the idea grew from there.

 How did you pick the characters?

When I noticed that so many fairy tales had food items in them I had to decide how a main character would interact with food in mind. A chef seemed perfect—a chef who loved cooking so much that he ignored all else in the magical land of fairy tales. Enter William, the chef. 

Then I needed a character that ran the land so that when things went wrong she could make sure the fairy tales got back on track. Enter Judy, Chief of Fairy Tale Headquarters.

Do you like cooking?

Yes and no. I do like baking. Cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, cobblers, and anything else to feed my sweet tooth. But when it comes to cooking a full-blown meal, I don’t do that very often any more. I’d rather be doing other things like writing ☺, walking, reading, or watching TV. It’s just my husband and me at home so we’d just as soon have a salad or something else simple. I am a good cook though and I can whip up a full meal when I need to.

Where did you get the title from? 

Well that’s an interesting question because it wasn’t the original title. The original title was APPLES, BEANS, AND PIE, OH MY! Sort of Wizard of Oz-ish, right? But my critique group thought since that title gave a nod to the Wizard of Oz that people would expect my story to have a hint of Oz, which it didn’t at all. They had a good point. So I played around with it and thought about William cooking up trouble. That’s when A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE came to mind.

Where did you get the illustrations?

Aren’t they perfect? My editor at Random House, Maria Modugno, picked Ben Mantle to do them. She picked him for my first book and he did an amazing job. She thought he would be just right for my second book, too. I didn’t talk to Ben at all when he was drawing the illustrations because he gets to use his creativity to tell half of the story with pictures. He’s such a talented artist.

Finally, I asked each boy to draw a picture of their favorite scene.  Luke picked the three little bears (because they are funny) and James picked the city scape (because it reminded him of where he used to live).

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Penny’s reaction to their delightful artwork:

If any of you reading this post follow my blog series, A GREAT NEPHEW AND A GREAT AUNT, you’re aware of my fondness for children’s artwork. Children’s artwork has an energy and an element of confidence that I wish they could hold on to forever. When I saw Luke’s drawing of the three bears and James’s drawing of the cityscape you can imagine how happy it made me. They included details from the book but made their artwork unique and special. If they lived closer I might have to borrow their drawings for a week so that I could hang them on my refrigerator and see them every time I walked by.

Thanks so much, Laura, for featuring A COOKED-UP FAIRY TALE and for sharing your preview copy with James and Luke.

James and Luke, thank you for all of your hard work. Your review, questions, and drawings made me very, very happy ☺

And thank you, Penny, for joining in the fun. Congratulations on this book and I hope it’s just the second of many more to come!

PPK_0615_RGB_HR_02ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Penny Parker Klostermann is the author of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale and There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight, both from Random House Children’s Books. She loves all kinds of books, but especially loves very silly picture books that make her laugh. Penny has been known to hug her favorite picture books and seriously hopes that someday her books will gain huggable status too. You can learn more about Penny on her website at https://pennyklostermann.com/.

COVER REVEAL: Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse (Sterling, Spring 2018)

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Today I’m delighted to share with you the cover for my next book, DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Children’s Books, Spring 2018), which is scheduled to hit bookstores everywhere this coming March.  Illustrator Rebecca Gerlings has a gift for whimsy and I LOVE her depiction of Delores and Fernando, the mouse.  I’ve seen the inside too and each and every illustration makes me want to sing!  (But, don’t worry, I’ll refrain from letting loose my vibratto.) Instead, I’ll just say, “Thank you, Sterling Children’s Books, for pairing us together and thank you, Rebecca, for bringing this story to delightful life with your illustrations.”

This book is now available for pre-order at several online retailers, should you happen to want to reserve a copy.