Summer time reminds me that I LOVE perennials, those wonderful plants that bloom in my garden, season after season, where they are enjoyed by all, again and again. My favorites include my butterfly bush, the daisies, the echinacea, the black-eyed susans and, most especially, my beloved roses – that remind me of my mother who faithfully tended her to her perennials year after year.
The joy of seeing my perennials bloom more gloriously than ever has gotten me thinking about how picture books – the good ones – are like perennials too, enjoyed by generations of kids and caregivers.
So, what makes a picture book a perennial favorite?
I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface, but here are FIVE characteristics that I think elevate a picture book to perennial status. What would you add?
Characteristic #1:Perennial picture books are fun to read again and again for both kids and caregivers. Books that have this quality tend to have fresh plot lines, fresh characters and fresh word play. They might incorporate a fun refrain or include fun sound words or rhymes, both of which engage youngest readers. Many can also be enjoyed on more than one level, thus appealing to littlest ones and their grown up readers.
Characteristic #2: Perennial picture books have charming illustrations that engage the reader and add to the story. Children are incredibly observant and LOVE perusing illustrations for extra story clues. The extra details in perennial favorites are often related to plot or the personality of the protagonist. Sometimes, though, the illustrations engage by offering extra details. These details might be conducive to playing “I spy” as you read, or they could be humorous clues to what will happen next, or offer readers a parallel visual story as they read. These illustrations can take many forms – but they all result in on thing – creating a magical reading experience that draws readers of all ages to return to their perennial favorites again and again.
Characteristic #3: Perennial picture books tap into universal themes that have and will most likely to continue to stand the test of time. Perennially favorite themes include friendship, love, discovery, thankfulness, overcoming hardship etc. However, to stand out, and remain a perennial favorite, the universal theme must be handled in a fresh and fun way. (See characteristic #1.)
Characteristic #4: In contrast to holiday-themed picture books which tend to be read just during their particular season of celebration, perennial favorites can be read and enjoyed anytime of year. Their settings may be distinct, and usually are, but the plots of perennial favorites typically don’t focus on a particular holiday. (Christmas picture books may be the exception because, at least in our house, my kids enjoyed several of those all year round.)
Characteristic #5: Perennial favorites often wrap up with a soothing restful ending, conducive to putting little ones to bed. Many times this takes the form of the characters in the story literally settling down to sleep themselves, but it can also simply be a cozy feel good ending, that’s not set at bedtime, but still has that soothing, “everything’s all right” feel.
Happy reading… and I’d love to hear what you’d add to my list!
A few weeks ago, I was asked by the organizers of the Write2Ignite Conference to write a post offering tips for seeking an agent. That post is up today. For those of you who are seeking an agent, I hope my thoughts are helpful. You can find them here. And while you are there, you might want to look into their upcoming September conference as well. It looks like a great opportunity, especially for writers with faith-themed stories, to learn more about the world of Christian children’s publishing.
As timing would have it, since penning this post, I find myself between agents, so I will be taking my own advice… at some point.
However, my first goal for the summer is to take stock of where I stand as a writer, set goals as to where I would like to be in five years, and then dedicate the summer to writing, writing, writing, with the primary joy-filling goal of building up my picture portfolio with brand new stories.
Happy Summer, all! May it be filled with the joy of seeing the world through writer’s eyes.
P.S. Remember, this journey as a writer is not to be rushed. That’s one of my core bits of advice and a good reminder for me (and maybe you, too) on this sunny spring day. And if you want to read more of my thoughts on that, read here and here.
Delores is DEE-LIGHTED to be featured on Dawn Prochovnic’s blog today – just one month after DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE’s first book birthday – as part of Dawn’s Birth of a Book Series. Eager to find out how this spotlight-loving little seal became a DIVA? Then, pop on over. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link: Birth of a DIVA!
Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Sarah Floyd as we celebrate the release of her newest picture book TEN CLEVER NINJAS, published by Clear Fork Publishing. Here’s the publisher’s description: “A very clever ninja and his nine ninja buddies spar across the countryside, build a secret hideout, and solve a sweet cupcake clue. Ki-ya! The upbeat rhythm and lively illustrations will appeal to children ages 2-6.” Sounds, adorable, right? Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the book from the author herself. Take it away, Sarah!
Five Fun Facts about Ten Clever Ninjas
1. The ninjas theme developed from my son’s passion for all things ninja.
When my son was little, he loved to dress up as a ninja—he was a ninja for three Halloweens in a row! When friends came over to play, we’d pull out the dress-up box, and other than a short Star Wars phase, ninjas always won! So, when the idea of a rhyming counting book began percolating, “ninjas” was a natural theme.
2. The illustrator for Ten Clever Ninjas is a doctor!
Marcin Bruchnalski practiced medicine for two years before deciding to enroll in the Academy of Fine Arts, where he devoted himself to becoming an artist instead. It’s easy to understand why his characters move in such a lifelike manner, and with such natural expressions—Marcin is both a doctor and an artist!
3. One of the ninjas uses a wheelchair.
Ninja #8, who rolls to the rescue in his wheelchair, was inspired by a childhood friend. He liked to be in the middle of the action and never let his wheelchair stop him from doing the things he loved.
4. “Ki-ya” and similar sounds are part of martial arts.
Martial artists make a loud sound called a “kihap,” defined as a spirited shout, which helps focus their energy when sparring or practicing powerful moves. That sound comes out as “ki-ya!” which is seen as a bubble of text in art in several illustrations in the book.
5. Ten Clever Ninjas has a foundation in my own childhood.
My friends and I rambled around the woods of California, much like the ten ninjas in the story, climbing trees, building forts, and gathering new friends along the way. Our parents trusted us to be careful, smart (clever!), and come home in time for dinner (or cupcakes!).
Thank you, Laura, for inviting me and my ten ninjas to your blog! Ki-ya!! : )
It has been my pleasure, Sarah! =)
Author Bio: Sarah Floyd was born in Carmel Highlands, California, where she and her friends explored, climbed trees, and built forts in the woods that surrounded their homes—much like the characters in Ten Clever Ninjas. When she was in first grade her family moved to San Francisco, and then to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She always brought her favorite books, wherever she moved, and she always found new friends who loved to read. Now she writes books for children and teens—for her, it’s the best job in the world!
Sarah is also the author of Butterfly Girl and is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Florida with her husband and teenage son, a green belt in Taekwondo. To learn more, please visit sarahfloydbooks.com
And now for the giveaway! (Thank you, Sarah!)
If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of TEN CLEVER NINJAS written by Sarah Floyd and illustrated by Marcin Bruchnalski, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 5/3/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!
Join me in welcoming fellow rhymer and picture book author, Gayle Krause, whose brand new picture book, DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON (Clear Fork Publishing), debuts this month! Gayle is the author of several books and a talented poet. She and I met as critique partners years ago in the critique group, The Poets’ Garage. Today, I am honored to have her as my guest sharing the inspiration behind her newest book. Thank you, Gayle!
The Inspiration behind DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON by Gayle Krause
Some people say children inspire them, some say it’s a feeling, or a dream. For this special picture book, I can’t explain how it came to be. My stories are usually filled with fantastic creatures, magic, or some silly, humorous happening. But not this one! This picture book is serious, and for me that’s a complete 180.
As former Early Childhood Educator, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers as part of their training program for over thirty years. I also directed a Laboratory Pre-K, affiliated with my teaching course. It was there, as I sat on the floor of the nursery school, reading countless picture books to the preschoolers, or acting out fairytales as creative dramatic presentations that I became uniquely attuned to the young child’s mind.
DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON? was a combination of the memory of one little boy that was having a difficult time accepting the time frame of his dad’s separation from the family (preschoolers do not understand the concept of time) and the military family reunions shown on the news each night when soldiers come home to surprise their children at school, baseball games, or parades.
I will say this. The idea for Daddy, Can You See The Moon? came all at once— the story, the rhyme, and the emotion. Good stories always come fast. Straight from the heart, with no pre-judging or revising before you choose the words. And this story is timeless…
Soldiers will always be deployed and children will always be waiting patiently, counting the days when their Mom or Dad returns from war. But sometimes they don’t come home the same way they left. In Daddy, Can You See the Moon? a young boy and his soldier dad share special moments by looking at the moon each night. But when Dad comes home wounded, his son discovers it’s the power of love that kept them connected all along, and he plays a major part in his father’s recovery.
We chose April 9, 2019 as the release date to celebrate The Month of The Military Child. So if you know a soldier, who was deployed and came back wounded, this book may help the family heal. And for those of you who aren’t in the military, it’s a universal story about the love of family.
Thank you, Gayle! I wish you the very best as you launch this very special book.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gayle C. Krause is a member of SCBWI, and a past member of the Historical Novel Society and the Poet’s Garage. She’s served on the Rhyming Revolution Selection Committee, choosing the “best” rhyming picture book for 2015-2018. A Master educator, she’s taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Ms. Krause writes fantasy, contemporary, and historical fiction for Young Adult, Middle Grade, and young children. She’s been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Scholastic Book Clubs, and in various Young Adult Anthologies. Her previous work, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper was a 2013 nominee for the Boston Globe/Horn Book and International Reading Awards. Follow Gayle’s writing journey at http://www.gayleckrause.comhttp://www.gayleckrause.com on Facebook and Twitter @GeeCeeK. New books coming in 2019. Daddy, Can You See the Moon? – April, 9, 2019 – #PB #woundedwarriors #military. Once Upon a Twisted Tale, a MG Fractured Fairytale Poetry Collection, Quest of the Ungnome. Clearfork/Spork Publishing.
There’s a new NATURE-LOVING picture book on the trail, just in time for spring hikes and summer explorations with your child. It’s called FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (Pomegranate Kids, March 15, 2019) and it’s written by Vivian Kirkfield with illustrations by Mirka Hokkanen. It’s a beautiful read and perfect for sparking thoughtful conversations with your little ones about nature – and especially about endangered species.
Here’s the description from the inside flap:
“Water wakes. Wildlife greets the day and finds shelter, safety, and fun on the river in this lyrical, ecologically oriented counting book. One willow flycatcher, two dragonflies, three kit foxes, and more thrive in their habitat. As kids count, the day turns from dawn to dusk, and the character of the water changes as quickly as a child’s moods. Animals sing, leap, tiptoe, toboggan, hoot, hunt, flit, flutter, and hover. They ride out a storm, bask in waning rays, and tuck in under the silver moon.
Filled with modern wood engravings, Four Otters Toboggan celebrates wild beauty, encouraging readers of all ages to preserve and cherish our planet. After the story is finished, children can read more about each species in the back of the book, conservation efforts, what causes animals to become endangered, and what people can do to protect wild habitats.”
Now, in celebration of the book’s release, and in the hope of sparking some good conversations with your children, here are SIX extension activities for FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN!
1. Take a counting hike. After reading FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN, take your child on their own nature walk through your neighborhood or at a local preserve. Bring along a notebook so they can keep a counting list of what animals, insects etc. they see. With each creature they spot, stop an marvel at what a wondrous gift it is to able to see these animals in the wild.
Here are some creatures my kids and I have spotted over the years:
2. Make your own animal counting book. Inspired by Vivian’s delightful text and Mirka’s wondrous illustrations (and using the counting list they tallied in the hiking activity), challenge your child to create their own nature counting book.
3. Visit a local nature center. Extend the lessons of the book by visiting a nature center or museum in your area. For example, all within an hour radius of our our, I have taken my kids to a nature museum by the sea, in the woods, and along the marshes. Some of these museums are tiny, but what they all have in common is that they celebrate and teach about the local species in each of those habitats.
4. Watch the illustrator create one of the engravings from the story. One of the standout features of this delightful book are illustrator Mirka Hokkanen’s amazing modern wood engravings. With that in mind, older children might enjoy hearing and watching the illustrator herself as she describes the process using the very engravings that appear in the story! Her presentation has three parts. I’m sharing the second part because it shows her actually engraving the owls from the story!
Here it is:
5. Create your own simple engravings. After watching Mirka describe her process, you children might be inspired to try their own engravings. Here’s a link to a simple block printing project from Art Class Curator that even the youngest child can do.
6. Download the “Otterly Awesome Companion Activity Book for Four Otters: A Counting Book”. This eleven page booklet includes crafts, coloring pages, puzzles, a hands-on idea page for how to care for endangered species and more! It will provide several sessions of wonderful follow-up conversation and thought.
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.
Thank you to Best In Rhyme Award committee member, Linda S. Mai, for taking the time to interview me as part of Angie Karcher’s 2019 Best In Rhyme Author Interview Series. I am thrilled that DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Publishing) won First Honor Book and DELIGHTED to see rhyming picture books CELEBRATED in this lovely way!
Here’s the link if you want to pop over for a quick (and hopefully inspiring) read. Happy rhyming!
WOW! Delores is delighted to receive first honors in the 2019 Best In Rhyme Awards! Watch the official announcement on KidLit TV and thank you to Angie Karcher and her team of judges for their hard work over the last few months analyzing entries and winnowing the list. Congrats to winner Sue Douglass Fliess for her delightful MARY HAD A LITTLE LAB and second honor winner Josh Funk for his picture book MISSION DEFROSTABLE!
Hooray for rhyming picture books and lovely occasions like this when we get to celebrate them! Happy Monday!
This past Sunday, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I read LOVE IS KIND to my Sunday School kids. I focused my lesson on what LOVE is and who the author of love is: GOD! Then we had cupcakes and made valentines.
But, oh, how I wish I had waited a Sunday so that I could use this amazing KidMin (Children’s Ministry) Object Lesson created by fellow Zonderkidz author Denette Fretz. She focuses her LOVE IS KIND Object Lesson on the theme “Kindness is a Choice” and ties it in with the Good Samaritan.
Oh, and there are marbles involved and a cute craft and great puppet idea! It’s not to be missed. Here’s the link. And while you are there be sure to check out her growing collection of picture book based KidMin lessons. They are amazing! (And there’s a giveaway!)