GUEST POST: Exploring PICTURE BOOK LAYERS with Children

Did you know picture books have multiple layers?  Those of us who write them are aware of this because it plays into how the story unfolds.  But children might not be aware of this. With that in mind, I’m delighted to share a wonderful post written by artist, teacher and children’s writer, Kathy O’Neill as she delves into the multiple layers of picture books with tips for using those rich layers to spark curiosity, faith in God, and a love of reading in our littlest ones.

And in the super special department, guess which book she features with examples of activities that delve into each rich layer? Little Ewe (Beaming Books, 2021)! Thank you, Kathy and thank you, Sally Matheny, for hosting her.

Read the post here and while you are there be sure to further explore Sally’s terrific faith-based website, chock full of bookish and educational posts for families. Kathy O’ Neill also has an engaging blog with posts to help children discover God through art history and nature.

READ, DISCUSS, DO! Snack and a Story with LOVE IS KIND

I’m so excited to be a part of a fabulous reading initiative geared to families, librarians, teachers and anyone, really, who enjoys reading picture books with their kids.

Created by founder and picture book author Rebecca J. Gomez, Read, Discuss, Do! exists to help you extend the magic of story time beyond the last page by following three simple steps:

Read a book. 

Talk about the book. 

Do a simple activity inspired by the book.

And this summer we are launching our second annual summer reading challenge. Each week features a fun reading theme with suggested books and ideas for engaging with books in creative and kid-friendly ways. Jump in whenever! Download the printable calendar (plus bookmarks) here.

In the super fun category, this week’s theme is Tasty Treats and, as part of the fun, Rebecca has put together a delightful Snack and a Story post featuring LOVE IS KIND. Thank you, Rebecca!  Here’s the link so you can check it out.

BAPTIZED IN THE WATER: An Interview with Glenys Nellist

Today, I’m delighted to host best-selling Christian children’s author Glenys Nellist for an interview in celebration of her newest release with Zonderkidz, BAPTIZED IN THE WATER. This colorful picture book showcases beautifully diverse renderings of children and adults being baptized by the many varying means across Christian denominations. It got me thinking about my own baptism at age 12 via immersion in a little missionary church in Paris, France! As part my baptism, I also spoke aloud my profession of faith – that I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I’m so glad I took that step all those years ago, for it has made all the difference in this journey called life. Maybe the book will get you thinking about baptism memories as well. And now for the interview, with my questions in blue to match the lovely cover of the book. (Oh, and there’s a giveaway so be sure to check that out at the end of the post.)

Welcome, Glenys, what inspired you to write a book about baptism?

Since I’m married to a pastor, I have had the privilege of witnessing many baptisms. In our denomination the water is poured or sprinkled, but I’ve also been present at baptisms where the person was fully immersed. Each time I’ve attended this sacred event, no matter where, or how, or when it occurred, it simply felt that we were celebrating our belonging in one wonderful, united family in Christ. The inspiration, then, for writing a book on baptism came from a desire to celebrate this oneness, this unity in Christ, despite the varying traditions or beliefs that may be held. For me, baptism is a beautiful, holy, mysterious moment that none of us really understands. I hope that Baptized in the Water captures some of the mystery and meaning of this ancient sacrament. 

How do you hope churches and families will use the book?

I hope that pastors, Christian Educators, Sunday school teachers, parents and grandparents might use Baptized in the Water to inspire curious conversations with children about the mystery and meaning of baptism. I know that many churches and families have also bought the book as a baptism gift, which is wonderful!

Do you have a favorite spread?

Anna Kazimi did a beautiful job with the diverse illustrations and it’s hard to pick just one!  But I really love the following spread, because it illustrates all the different ways to be baptized.

Are there any special resources that go along with the book that readers might enjoy?

Yes! I wrote this free downloadable Activity Pack to accompany the book, which includes tips for talking with children about baptism as well as signed bookplates, commemorative bookmarks and a certificate. 

Finally, what’s next in the pipeline?

In July my next picture book with Beaming Books will be published, called Little Mole Goes to School, and then in the fall, I have three board books releasing. Good News! It’s Creation! and Good News! God Loves You (Our Daily Bread publishers) make their appearance in September, and the seventh in the Snuggle Time series, Snuggle Time Love, (Zonderkidz) hits the shelves in December. So it’s another busy year for me!

Thank you, Glenys, for joining me today. I wish you the very best with this and all your books.

BIO 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, The Wonder That is You, and five popular series: Love Letters from God, Snuggle Time, ‘Twas, Good News and Little Mole, her writing reflects a deep passion for helping children discover joy and hope in the world. Glenys lives in Michigan with her husband, David. Connect with her here:

Author Website Instagram

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NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of BAPTIZED IN THE WATER (Zonderkidz, 2022) follow this blog and comment below saying you’d like to be entered. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Zonderkidz, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Monday, 6/6/22 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day! 

[Note: Thank you to the publisher for an advance copy at the book. The views and opinions expressed on this blog about books and other things are purely my own.]

10 Book-Themed Crafts and Activities for LITTLE EWE

TEACHERS! CAREGIVERS! LIBRARIANS! I’ve rounded up TEN activities created just for LITTLE EWE: THE STORY OF ONE LOST SHEEP (Beaming Books) — perfect for spring or summer, or any time of year. Enjoy!

ONE: Make your own fluffy Little Ewe (great for preschool storytime) and then play hide and seek.

TWO: Do a book-themed Read, Discuss, DO. (or two!)

THREE: After reading the story, play a book-themed listening game over at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

FOUR: Follow up a Little Ewe story time with a cute paper-plate sheep craft at Glitter on a Dime.

FIVE: Have your kids draw pictures of their favorite scenes/characters and then share on your socials using the hashtag #littleewe.

SIX: After reading the story, spark meaningful conversation using this teacher-created list of lessons to cherish from Little Ewe

SEVEN: Make a knitted Little Ewe craft (for shepherds to knit, although it is easy enough for older little lambs as well.)

EIGHT: Follow up Little Ewe story time by making an adorable little lamb resting box (for the little lamb you knitted above or the toy lamb of your choice) and playing a game found over at Celebrate Picture Books.

NINE: Share with little ones how figs made it into the book, then have a figgy snack using this behind-the-scenes post for inspiration.

TEN: Download the Little Ewe activity kit over at Beaming Books (includes craft ideas, reading ideas, coloring pages and a maze!).

RIBBIT! THE TRUTH ABOUT FROGS: An Interview with Author Annette Whipple

Children’s author Annette Whipple is celebrating a book birthday this week! Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs, her newest book in the Truth About Series, published by Reycraft, released this Tuesday. Like her other books in the series, this one is chock full of fascinating facts presented in a kid-friendly, engaging way. The accompanying photographs are beautiful and the layout is appealing to both kids and grown ups. I give it a froggy thumbs up! And now, in the extra special category, I’m delighted to have Annette here today for a bookish interview with my questions in bold.

First, congratulations on this newest book in your series from Reycraft. Please tell us a little bit about the series and how you came to write it and how you landed on the topic of frogs in particular.

Thanks so much, Laura! It’s great to be back! The Truth About series began with Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls. It took me year to figure out how to write it so it would be of interest to readers. I finally landed on the question-and-answer format and added the humorous sidebars. I knew I loved the structure and thought readers (and publishers) would, too.

Since then Reycraft and I have discussed additional books to make it a series. In 2021 we added Woof! and Scurry! Now we have Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs, too. Frogs was on my list of animals that are diverse enough to include tons of beautiful photographs. I knew they were cool before, but I didn’t realize just how TOAD-ally awesome they are until I began researching.

What a great series!  And I agree that the question-and-answer format works beautifully.  It also pairs well with something kids are famous for – asking questions! 

Speaking of kids, the kid in me really enjoyed the illustrated “Leaping Legs” feature of the book. Can you explain what those are and how you came up with them?

Each page spread includes an illustrated sidebar called “Leaping Legs.” In it, the frogs talk and share a bit more information with the reader—often in a humorous way. During my brainstorming process, I knew I wanted to add a bit of humor to the books, but I also didn’t want the main text to be silly or funny. I love layers of text and sidebars in other books. That’s when I realized an illustrated sidebar would be perfect—especially with the animals talking.

I think my readers will be curious about what your research process was like for this book. Did you meet a lot of frogs along the way?

I used my typical resources: books, websites, scientific journals, and YouTube. My favorite website was https://amphibiaweb.org/. I also met up with a herpetologist with the Delaware Nature Society. 

He clarified some questions I had and we definitely met some frogs. It was early enough in the spring that wood frogs and spring peepers were the main attraction. But we spotted lots of eggs and heard the calls of a lot of frogs—even in the daytime. 

Teachers and parents are always looking for ways to tie picture books into the curriculum, and I think that’s especially true for a STEM rich book like this. Do you have any extension activities your readers might enjoy?

Oh, I love this question because frogs are so much fun and really an easy way to celebrate curiosity! I created a frog teacher guide (which is also great for home use). I included 19 frog ELA and STEM activities. And it’s free!

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

I’m excited to say that Meow! The Truth About Cats will come out in the fall! You can see Meow’s cover in this trailer for The Truth About series. (It’s quick!)

I don’t have any official news to share about additional titles, but I hope to tell something in an upcoming newsletter and on social media sooner than later. 😊 

Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs and all of my books are available wherever books are sold. Ask for them at your favorite local bookstore or find them at online retailers. I’d love it if you’d request your local library to carry Ribbit! 

Thanks so much for having me, Laura! If your readers want to learn more about me or check out my resources for writers and educators, they can hop over to my website at www.AnnetteWhipple.com .

Thanks for joining me here today, Annette. I am requesting your books for purchase at my library!

LITTLE EWE: Joint Interview with Author and Illustrator Reveals SHARED HOPE

A few years ago, I had on my heart to write a counting story for littlest ones inspired by one of my favorite parables from the New Testament. I had always loved this particular parable because it was a visual and comforting reminder to me that no matter how far I wandered, or even if I lost my way, God would always be there – not just waiting for me, but actively seeking to bring me back to Him. I also loved this particular parable because it had sheep.  

If you know my books, you’ve probably figured out that the book that was on my heart to write was LITTLE EWE.  And my hope from the beginning for this particular book was that it would serve as a creative, playful way to introduce children to our Shepherd’s amazing love through the eyes of one fictional little lamb. 

In the summer of 2019, the book was accepted for publication by Naomi Krueger, acquisitions editor at Beaming Books. I was thrilled and had lots of questions for her. I asked things like who would the illustrator be? Would there be any revisions? What was the anticipated publication date? But one thing I never outrightly asked, but have always wondered, was if she had the same deep hope for the book as I did.

Well, last week, I got my answer, when I was invited by Picture Book Look Podcast hosts Kim Chaffee and Kirsti Call to participate in a special chat about LITTLE EWE with my editor, Naomi Krueger! I’ve done podcasts and radio interviews before, but never a joint one like this. Kim and Kirsti asked great questions and I LOVED hearing about Naomi’s process and thoughts in acquiring and then bringing the book to fruition. I hope you will take a listen. (It’s under 16 minutes.) Here’s the link.

But even if you don’t have time right this minute so listen to the whole episode, here’s an “audio pinch” (a new phrase for me) from the interview in which we talk about our hopes for the book. And guess what? We did share the same vision for the book from the beginning and am moved by the depth of her response to the question.

Thank you, Naomi, for acquiring this story, and to the whole team at Beaming Books, along with illustrator Tommy Doyle, for bringing it to life so charmingly. And thank you to Kim and Kirsti at Picture Book Look for interviewing us. I hope LITTLE EWE is enjoyed by sheep of all ages (and their shepherds) for years to come.

Interested in adding a copy to your home, school, or church library?  It’s available wherever books are sold.  

LOVE IS KIND: MOTHER’S DAY is for GRANDMOTHERS too!

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about my mother and my grandmothers, all of whom I remember fondly, especially in May when we celebrate Mother’s Day. My mom and her mom also shared the same birthdate in May (isn’t that neat?) and so that makes the month extra nostalgic for me as I remember the wonderful bonds we shared.

As the author of LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) I think I can say, with fair certainty, that Little Owl from the book also loves taking time in May and on Mother’s Day to celebrate the special bond he shares with his Grammy.

In the story, for those of you who haven’t read it, Little Owl is on a quest to show Grammy how much he loves her by buying her a box of heart-shaped chocolates. Along the way, however, he encounters obstacle after obstacle, and ends up arriving with nothing. Nothing, that is, until his wonderful Grammy points out that the gift he has to offer is LOVE and that HE is the gift when he shows love along the way, a gift much better than chocolate!

Here’s a sweet glimpse of that special moment when they both celebrate that HE is the gift captured in a special clip illustrator Lison Chaperon made to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND:

I love reading LOVE IS KIND any time of year, but I feel a little extra sentimental as we leap into May. And that sentimentality is actually commemorated in the book. If you have a copy near you, open it up to the dedication page. Do you see who I dedicated it to? My grandmothers!

Sadly, both they and mom, passed away before I ever wrote the first word of the story. Still, I always think of them – and the great bonds we shared – every time I read the book. It is my hope that the book might also become a special bonding story for your families, as you read and enjoy it together with your children and grand children.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Note: If you enjoyed this post, please consider following my blog. I post once or twice weekly. Posts are devoted to celebrating reading, writing and life!

Inspired by WONDER WOMAN: FOUR Tips to Activate your PICTURE BOOK Writing Super Powers

My husband gave me a card with Wonder Woman on the front and that’s all it took to remind me of this favorite post from 2017 which offers super hero wisdom for picture book writers. Enjoy!

A few years ago I was asked in an interview if, even as a child, I always wanted to be a children’s author.  And after a bit of thought, I answered no. When I was a child what I really wanted to be was Wonder Woman! I had her twirl perfected and everything. Activating her super powers, I would spend hours with friends, or sometimes alone, creating fantastic make-believe scenarios. These were the plot lines that brought wonderful play worlds to life.

As picture book writers we, too, have super powers we can activate to create engaging stories. So now, in celebration of my first career dream as a super hero, here are FOUR SUPER POWERS we can all use to bring our picture book manuscripts to life:

The POWER of the KID-FRIENDLY PROBLEM:  Losing a favorite toy, wanting a cookie, being afraid of a storm, not wanting to take a bath. These are just a few examples of kid-friendly problems in the books we read.  A kid-friendly problems connects the reader to your story.

The POWER of PICTURES that ADD: The hallmark of picture books, of course, is that they are illustrated. But there’s more. Good picture book writers let the pictures tell part of the story. Sometimes the pictures even include important details that are not in the text. See Mo Willem’s KNUFFLEBUNNY for a great example of this, or GOODNIGHT, ARK or LOVE IS KIND (or any of my books.) As you write and revise your stories, put stars next to parts of the story that could be told (or enhanced) by the illustrations. Then consider omitting the words from the text, instead substituting a simple illustration note, but only if absolutely necessary.

The POWER of the PAGE TURN: With only a few sentences per spread, picture books include almost constant page turns. These built-in pauses provide authors a great opportunity to build suspense. Consider pausing at an exciting moment mid-sentence as you write.  What happens next?  To find out kids will have to TURN THE PAGE! (Note: creating a book dummy during revisions is a great way to figure out how you can take advantage of page turns.)

The POWER of HUMOR:  Kids love to laugh, or at least chuckle, and so do parents. So anytime you can infuse humor into your story, via text or illustration, go for it!

What SUPER POWER would you add? Let us fellow writers know in the comments. And if wanted to be a super hero when you were little, let us know that too! Happy Writing, all!

10 Things to LOVE about Picture Books

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here at 10 things to LOVE about picture books.

  1. Picture books can be read in one sitting.
  2. Though they can be read in just one sitting, the good ones beg to be read again and again.
  3. Picture books are a magical intertwining of text and image.
  4. Picture books can be enjoyed and treasured by all ages.
  5. Picture books area an engaging introduction to littlest ones to the joy of reading.
  6. They can be read with your little one on your lap, all cozy and snug.
  7. They’re wonderful for pre-readers because there’s so much to point to, name, predict etc.
  8. Picture books are perfect when you are the guest reader in your child’s K – 2nd grade class.
  9. They’re also wonderful for grades 3 and up (yes, even through high school) as model texts for examining story structure, voice, character development, figurative language and more.
  10. And because picture books tap into universal themes like friendship, empathy, forgiveness, perseverance and more, they can serve as the spark to heartfelt conversations about life with your kids no matter what their ages.

What do YOU love about picture books?  

FIVE FUN FACTS about YOU’RE THE HUGS TO MY KISSES with Barbara Herndon (And a GIVEAWAY!)

Today I’m delighted to have former Zonderkidz acquisitions editor Barbara Herndon as my guest. I got to know Barbara professionally ten years ago. She acquired my debut picture book, Goodnight, Ark plus three more after that. What a treat, then, to learn that she now has a picture book releasing with Zonderkidz. Full of fun rhymes that celebrate the joy of loving others and embracing the special connections that caring for others brings, You’re the Hugs to my Kisses is a perfect pick for Valentine’s Day or any time of year. Barbara’s bouncy rhyme is fun to read and Diane Ewan’s illustrations stand out for their colorful and wonderfully diverse cast of children and loved ones of all ages enjoying each others’ company in various delightful ways. Take a moment to enjoy the book trailer, then get ready to smile as Barbara shares five fun facts about the book. (And don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end for a chance to win a SIGNED copy of this delightful new book.)

Five Fun Facts

YOU’RE THE HUGS TO MY KISSES

By Barbara Herndon

Fun Fact #1: It all began with a donut.

From the time I was a child, my mother loved donuts. It was a wonderful treat that my dad would present to her for special occasions like Mother’s Day and her birthday. A delicious dozen that always included her favorite, jelly sticks. Many years later my mom still loves her donuts, and when I brought her some and she said to me, “You’re the jelly to my donut”, a book idea was born. I began to think of other popular pairings and similar phrases (“You’re the milk to my cookies” “You’re the ketchup to my French fries”) that I thought might be fun to compile in a children’s book. “You’re the jelly to my donut” is still my favorite phrase (for obvious reasons) and the one that begins the book. ☺

Fun Fact #2: This children’s book is not just for children.

When I first wrote the manuscript, You’re the Hugs to My Kisses, I was thinking this book would be filled with a diverse group of children. But the more I worked on the text, the more I began to imagine the pages filled with people of all ages, representing all sorts of relationships. We ended up including a variety of children (friends and siblings), parents, grandparents, pets, as well as an older couple dancing under the stars and a younger couple sharing a cupcake in the park. We all have people in our lives that mean the world to us, and I wanted to create a book where everyone young and old could find themselves reflected in the pages. 

Fun Fact #3: I not only wrote the manuscript, I helped choose the illustrator.

In children’s picture book publishing it’s very unusual for the author to have a say in the look and style of the final product. Usually, the manuscript is acquired by an editor and that person casts their vision, researches artists, and makes their final decision based on input from the creative department as well as the sales and marketing teams. Because I previously worked as an acquisitions editor at Zonderkidz (and choosing artists was a large part of my job), they welcomed my input and direction. I fell in love with Diane Ewan’s style right away and felt she would be perfect to capture the joy, whimsy, and heart of this book. And I will be forever grateful that the Zkidz team agreed.

Fun Fact #4: I’ve read this book aloud more times than I can count.

Because picture books are meant to be a shared experience and read aloud with a child, it’s very important for me to hear how the book sounds as I’m writing the manuscript. As I worked on the text, I would continually read it out loud from start to finish to make sure the phrases flowed and nothing made me stumble in the reading. It’s not an exaggeration to say I probably read this material out loud hundreds of times before anyone ever saw the manuscript.

Fun Fact #5: Once you start thinking of these phrases, you can’t stop.

Once I started brainstorming the book thinking of the phrases (You’re the X to my Y) I couldn’t stop! I have a very long list of these pairings that didn’t make the cut. Fortunately, I’m channeling this obsession into a holiday sequel that I hope to share with my publisher very soon. ☺

Thank you, Barbara! I think Fact #2 is my favorite! I wonderful which fact my readers will pick. I wish you the best and look forward to reading more of your books.

BIO: Barbara began writing for children on the award-winning animated series Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys. After writing and producing children’s television and film projects for Nickelodeon, Paramount, Disney, PBS, Cartoon Network, National Geographic Kids, and American Greetings, Barbara turned her focus to children’s publishing. A lifelong fan of picture books, Barbara worked as an acquisitions editor for HarperCollins Publishing, acquiring and developing a long list of successful projects including Amazon editor’s pick I Love You, Funny Bunny and the New York Times bestselling Fiona the Hippo.

NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY!!! If you’d like a chance to win a SIGNED copy of  YOU’RE THE HUGS TO MY KISSES (Zonderkidz, 2022) simply post a comment below letting me know. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) Thank you, Barbara, for providing the winning book. This giveaway ends Friday, 2/4/22 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced the next day! 

[Note: Thank you to Zonderkidz for sending me an advanced copy of this book 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.]