Last week I had the honor of sharing my writing journey before a delightfully packed hall of residents and guests at Kendal at Lexington, the vibrant continuing care community where my dad lives. The talk was enjoyed by all (me included, once I got over my butterflies), especially because it was accompanied by a colorful slide show. The favorite slide by far was this one depicting two tender moments that inspired me to write GOODNIGHT, MANGER.
On the left, my daughter, then two, gently cares for her new baby doll, given to her by my mother on her birthday. It was with the same tenderness, just a couple of months later (and for several Christmases beyond that as well), that she would care for the little Baby Jesus that was part of our nativity set. She’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.” Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. But, he was human (and God) and so he must have cried. (And in GOODNIGHT, MANGER, He does!)
On the right, you can see what a noisy and unhappy participant my sweet daughter was in the Christmas Pageant held at her school when she was three. Moments after this picture was snapped, I scooped Miss A. up and enjoyed snuggling with my little angel while we watched the nativity story unfold together. There were plenty of angels that day, so it was just fine that she sat out, and the NEXT year she was happy to participate. I think, at barely three, she was overwhelmed by the packed chapel – just as Baby Jesus, in my story, was also overwhelmed by the bustling stable.
A third inspiration experience, not pictured above, was the sweet memory of singing lullabies to Baby Jesus with my kids. Miss A. and I even recorded ourselves doing it once, so we could share the moment with my parents who lived half a country away. You can see it here:
Finally, GOODNIGHT, MANGER was prompted by a personal desire to write a fun Christmas-themed book that would center on Christ, rather than Santa, in what has become a very secularized Christmas season. I wanted to write a Christmas story that would be fun for anyone to read, but which would point them in the direction of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas.
Here’s my closing thought for the day: With only six weeks or so until Christmas, now is the time, before the hustle-bustle of the holiday season sets in, to be thoughtful and intentional about how you will share the story of Christmas with your little ones.
With this in mind, over the course of the next few weeks, I will be sharing ideas new and old describing different ways families, teachers etc. can share the Christmas story with their children in vibrant and engaging ways. And I, of course, would be honored if GOODNIGHT, MANGER makes your list of Christ-focused stories to share with your children this Advent Season. Blessings all!
I’ve been keeping this to myself for a little while, but the announcement ran in Publishers Weekly yesterday, so I think I can finally let out exuberant, “Baa-aaah!”
Thank you, Beaming Books, for taking on this project, one of my favorites. I can’t wait for you all to meet Little Ewe and share in her adventures as she counts her way farther and farther from Shepherd. You won’t have to wait too, too long. The book releases in November 2020!
Here’s my writerly takeaway from this latest fun news: Keep writing. Keep subbing. Keep honing your craft. Be true to yourself and good things will come. Happy writing all!
Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Dawn Babb Prochovnic as we celebrate the release of her darling companion picture books WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? and WHERE DOES A COWGIRL GO POTTY? both illustrated by Jacob Souva and both published by West Margin Press. Congratulations! Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE, not just FUN, but truly INSPIRING FACTS about the books from the author herself.
FIVE Fun Facts About Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? & Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?
By Dawn Prochovnic
FUN FACT #1 Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? was inspired by the antics of my son, then a toddler, now a senior in high school.
There was a day when my son was being particularly silly, running through the house with a diaper on his bottom, a bandana on his head, and a pirate’s patch over one eye. He looked at me with an ornery twinkle in his uncovered eye, and asked in his best, pirate-y gruff toddler voice, “Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?” I knew immediately that was the title for a book, and I started drafting a manuscript soon after. It took many years and many revisions to get this story just right, but what I continue to love about it is that each time I read it, I am instantly transported back to that memorable moment shared with my son, when he first posed that silly question to me.
FUN FACT #2 Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? emerged out of a writing exercise.
My pirate manuscript was a crowd-pleaser at open mics at writing conferences, and it received several close looks from different editors and publishers, but it had yet to sell. Eventually, I decided to completely reimagine the story with another main character. In 2015, I was invited to contribute a story to a beautiful picture book anthology called Oregon Reads Aloud. The primary submission guideline was that every story in the book needed to relate to Oregon in some fashion. I took a close look at my work-in-progress file, and after some encouragement from one of my critique partners, I decided to “Oregon-ize” a “first-day-of-school” story that had gotten a few editorial nibbles, but that also hadn’t sold. I LOVED the experience of revising within a structured framework. Ideas for clever revisions that fit within the Oregon theme and within my overall plot structure and rhyme pattern came relatively easily. Happily, the story was accepted for inclusion in the anthology, and I had a refreshed publication credit under my belt and a renewed sense of confidence in my writing ability.
A couple of years later, as a writing exercise, I challenged myself to experiment with westernizing my pirate story. Unfortunately, my attempts fell flat. I eventually came to realize that I was essentially inserting a random cowboy into my pirate’s story. I needed to do some deeper work on character development. Then I had a new idea: What about a cowgirl?
I found myself immediately transported back to a time when my college-aged daughter was in grade school, and her wardrobe included a bright pink pair of cowgirl boots. I paged through old photos and found the one I was looking for: A photo of my daughter dressed-up for her western-themed grade school carnival. I finally had the kernel of a new character in my mind’s eye. This character was unique and separate from the pirate character that I couldn’t let go of, and she had her own story to tell. Yee-Haw!
FUN FACT #3 I went from having no contract offers on the table for my “potty books” to having two simultaneous contract offers on the table–one for the pirate story and the other for the cowgirl story.
Once I finished my cowgirl story, I identified a list of publishers that would be a good fit and started the process of submitting this new story. I had not submitted my pirate story in quite some time, and unbeknownst to me, it was going through the acquisition channels at a New York publishing house. Seemingly suddenly, I had publishing offers from two different publishers on the table, each primarily interested in one of the two books. Soon, both publishers indicated they would like to acquire both books and publish them as companion pieces, so I needed to decide which of the two publishing houses I wanted to work with and begin negotiating a contract. I reached out to a handful of agents on my agent prospect list to see if anyone would help me navigate this opportunity. I only heard back from one, and she graciously declined. I then reached out to a handful of authors, booksellers, and librarians in my personal and professional networks to seek input and advice. Once I decided that West Margin Press (then called Graphic Arts Books) was the best fit for my vision for the books, I turned to the Authors Guild to help me identify the contract terms that were most important to me.
Although I certainly would have welcomed representation during this process, I learned so much along the way, and I don’t regret how it all turned out. I’m very comfortable with the decisions I made, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience of working with West Margin Press. That said, I continue to have deep admiration for the publisher I didn’t get to work with–and I continue to hold hope that we will land on another project that is a good fit.
FUN FACT #4 I used a HEAP of sticky notes to help me organize my thoughts and ideas during the editorial process for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big fan of sticky notes. I use sticky notes to help me prioritize competing to-do’s and organize larger projects, and I’ve taught many others to do the same in the workshops I teach. I have them plastered near my front door to remind me to bring a particular something with me when I leave the house. I have them in my car to remind me of errands I need to run. I leave them on the kitchen table to let my kids know where I’ve gone and when I’ll be back, and I have them in wild disarray all over my desk with scribbles of story ideas, to-do’s, and phone numbers. Every so often (truthfully, not often enough), I consolidate the notes scattered on my desk to one or two notes, and start anew.
I heavily leaned on sticky notes during the revision process for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? and Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? to help me organize my thoughts and the characters’ dialogue. After the editing process was completed for Cowgirl, I wrote out the text of the story on sticky notes. The story is told in dialogue bubbles, so I used different colors to indicate main character, supporting character, etc. I then did the same for the (yet to be edited) Pirate story, leaving blank sticky notes for dialogue that had not yet been written or that needed to be revised to align with the structure and tone of the Cowgirl story. I find that sticky notes makes it easier to revise/move text, and it creates a visual point of reference to assess the pacing of the story.
FUN FACT #5 Helping create songs for Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? and Where Does A Cowgirl Go Potty? may just be the most fun I’ve had yet!
Last year, as a gift to my husband for our 30th wedding anniversary, I wrote the lyrics for a song and worked with a singer/songwriter who wrote the music and recorded the song (You can listen to the song and read a blog post that tells the story behind the song here. The process reminded me how much I love being a part of “music.” Whenever I see live music, mostly in small, local venues, not only do I enjoy the experience of listening, but I find myself wishing I were on the stage performing with the artists. I’ve long joked with friends that I’d like to be part of a “girl band” (whatever that means), saying I play a mean tambourine and could sing back-up (I played the drums in middle school and can still keep a pretty decent beat… and I regularly lead songs in my parent/child “sing and sign” classes).
This past January, as I was making goals for the coming year, I realized that I was making this “joke” more and more often, and that I really wasn’t joking–I DID want to be part of something musical.
So …. I started reaching out to my personal and professional networks, (and in some cases perfect strangers), and eventually was introduced to two different singer/songwriter/performers. They each have completely different work styles and musical styles, but what they have in common is that they are both wonderful musicians and sincerely good people, that I now call friends. I collaborated with these musicians to create a companion children’s song for each book. In one case I wrote all the lyrics, in the other I co-wrote the lyrics. In both cases, the musicians wrote the music and performed and recorded the songs, which are works of art in their own right. I couldn’t be any more proud about how the songs turned out.
The music for the Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? song was written and performed by AnnieBirdd Music, LLC, with Annie Lynn, Walt Wilczewski, and Chris Arms, and starring Red Beard The Pirate, a.k.a. Alexander Wilczewski.
You can listen to our song by viewing the animated book trailer that illustrator Jacob Souva created for our book:
The song for Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty? was written and performed by Singer/Songwriter/Performing Musician, Marshall Mitchell.
The song-writing process was SO. MUCH. FUN! … I can’t wait to do it again!
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Laura! I really enjoyed thinking about and writing about Five Fun Facts related to my new books.
About the Author: Dawn Babb Prochovnic is the author of Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty?, and 16 books in the Story Time with Signs & Rhymes Series, including one title that was selected as an Oregon Book Awards finalist, and she is a contributing author to the award-winning book, Oregon Reads Aloud. Dawn is a vocal advocate for school and public libraries and was honored as a 2015 Oregon Library Supporter of the Year by the Oregon Library Association. She is a frequent presenter at schools, libraries and educational conferences, and the founder of SmallTalk Learning, which provides American Sign Language and early literacy education. Dawn loves to travel and has visited thousands of potties across the Pacific Northwest and around the world. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, two kids, two cats, and a feisty dog. Learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com
I always enjoy meeting authors through social media and was delighted to connect recently with Brock Eastman who has written not just picture books/board books but also middle grade. He’s here today to share FIVE FUN facts about his two newest releases for littlest readers, Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound both published by Harvest House. The publisher sent me a review copy of Mommy’s Favorite Smell so I could have a full sense for his books. I’ve never read a book that focuses so exclusively on smell! FUN! I hope you enjoy the post. Happy sniffing!
FIVE Fun Facts About Mommy’s Favorite Smell & Daddy’s Favorite Sound
By Brock Eastman
FUN FACT #1: My kids inspire me.
My daughter asked me, “Is this your favorite sound?” as she moved a slinky back and forth in her little hands.
“No that’s not my favorite sound,” I said.
“What’s your favorite sound?” she asked.
“Kinley, I love you,” I said.
“Daddy, I love you too,” she repeated.
I smiled and said, “That is my favorite sound!”
And that is how Little Lion came to be. After ten years and many drafts, Daddy’s Favorite Sound found a home with Harvest House. And soon there were two books, one for Daddy and one for Mommy.
FUN FACT #2: My wife inspires me too.
All the credit for the second book’s idea, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, goes to my wife. We were driving back from a date talking about what Mommy’s Favorite could be and she shared one her favorite moments as a mom with me, and that was it. We are excited to share what Mommy’s Favorite Smell is to us, and we think you’ll probably agree. But to find out, you’ll have to read the book aloud to your kids or grandkids or classroom.
FUN FACT #3: Reading wasn’t my thing, and neither was writing.
I despised reading when I was younger, it wasn’t until I was in college that I started to enjoy reading. And with a degree in marketing, writing never occurred to me as something I might do. But God opened some doors and next thing I knew I had a 5-book contract for a middle grade series called The Quest for Truth, in fact the final book (Hope) released in July. From there I’ve continued to create new stories.
FUN FACT #4: Illustrator David Miles is amazing.
I met David Miles the illustrator for Daddy’s Favorite Sound and Mommy’s Favorite Smell through a story I wrote for Clubhouse magazine. I wrote a story called Waste Deep, which was connected loosely to The Quest for Truth galaxy. Clubhouse magazine selected David to illustrate the story, and soon he brought my story to life in ways I couldn’t even imagine.
FUN FACT #5: Readers…Parents…Imagination
I hope parents will read my stories to their soon-to-be-readers while snuggling up together with their kids, And I hope that as kids hear these stories, their imaginations will be sparked and they’ll want to read more and more.
Brock Eastman has a degree in Marketing and works for Compassion International. Previously he was a producer and podcast host for Adventures in Odyssey. He is the author of The Quest for Truth series, Daddy’s Favorite Sound, Mommy’s Favorite Smell, Bedtime on Noah’s Ark, Sages of Darkness series, and Imagination Station series; Showdown with the Shepherd. He writes articles for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. Magazines. He loves reading stories to his four kids each night.
There’s a new TRUCK-LOVING picture book that recently roared onto bookshelves everywhere, just in time the new school year. It’s called TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) and it’s co-written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, with illustrations by Hilary Leung. Using two big trucks as stand-ins for two kids, it’s the perfect story to calm back-to-school nerves and set the wheels in motion for a terrific school year. Written by two of the best rhymers around, it’s also full of fun word play that will tickle the engines of young readers everywhere.
Now, to celebrate reading in general – and this book in particular – here are six book-themed extension activities perfect for 3 – 6 year olds. So, invite your kiddos to find a good spot to read… then extend the fun with one, two, or all of these activities (which rhyme, by the way, just because).
Take a local truck tally! After reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, have each child grab an index card and pencil, then take a little drive to look for trucks of all sizes. For younger kids, simply tally the number of trucks you spot. (This is a good opportunity to teach them how to tally- a wonderful counting skill.) For older children, consider having them list the different types of big trucks they see, then make tallies for each of those categories.
Have a mini-truck rally! Inspired by Rebecca’s and Corey’s truck-racing text and Hillary’s wondrous setting, grab your favorite toy trucks (and/or cars) and head outside to the sandbox, playground, or even your backyard. Rev up your engines for some good old-fashioned races, challenges, and maybe even a few stunts.
Take a picture read through. After reading TWO TRUCKS, let your littlest ones re-read it to you using the pictures as clues. Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to. (Older kids who can read on their own, can also enjoy investigating the illustrations ways the pictures also tell part of the story.)
Do a “Read. Discuss. Do!” Author Rebecca Gomez has created a delightful reading extension initiative called Read.Discuss.Do! Here’s one she created for this book. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.
Have a truck-themed book fest. After reading the story, your kids might be inspired to read more truck-themed books. If so, head to the library and have a truck-themed book fest! Your librarian can help you find some good books.
Painting truck tracks is the best! Mess and grime and MUD are part of the fun when it comes to trucks (at least in my opinion). That’s why I’ve selected this messily adorable craft for post-reading artsy fun. Be sure to spread out some newspaper or a vinyl cloth before running those trucks through the paint! Smocks also advised. Afterwards, simply rinse the trucks off in a bucket of water -which also becomes an activity in and of itself that your kids will LOVE!
I found many renditions of this craft online. Here’s the one I thought had the clearest instructions:
Thanks for stopping by today. I hope these extension ideas inspire you and your littles to extend the conversation and the fun after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS. If you enjoyed this post, please help me to grow my audience (and ensure that you’ll be among the first to know about new posts) by following my blog or liking my Facebook Author Page. Thank you.
Now for the GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 10/3/19 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday!
Over the summer I planned a series for our church’s Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week during July and August, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God. Over the course of the fall, I will be sharing these and other picture book lessons that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today, I kick off this occasional series by sharing my lesson for I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE (Zonderkidz, 2018) written by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic. Stay tuned for more this fall.
PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson
I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE
by Denette Fretz
PURPOSE: To recognize that each one of us is a miracle of God, wonderfully made and created with a special purpose and that our Heavenly Father delights in lavishing His love upon us! Praise God!
OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Zoo Charade
Open in prayer, then explain that in today’s story, we will be taking a trip to the zoo. First, have the children write down (on little scraps of paper) several animals you might find at the zoo. Put the slips of paper in a cup, then let each child pick a slip and then use pantomime to act out which animal they have. No speaking or sounds aloud. The children will have fun guessing and can cheer each other on.
INTRODUCE THE STORY: Introduce Denette Fretz’s I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, by showing the book cover. Can they guess what is happening? Explain that Meerkat has a problem. He’s got a bad case of “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” syndrome! Can they guess what that is? It means he thinks he would be happier if he had what others had, instead of what God gave him. Have they ever wished they had what someone else had? Did they think it would make them happier? What do they think God would say in this situation? Share and ponder together, then read the story.
FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME: After enjoying the story, use these questions to spark meaningful conversation.
1. Who does Jack remind us of? US!!
2. Who does the zookeeper remind us of? GOD!
3. Do we need reminders from our zookeeper, GOD, that we too are wonderfully made and created for a special purpose? YES!
4. And where can we find those reminders? IN THE BIBLE!
DIG INTO SCRIPTURETIME:
Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find beautiful reminders from God that we are wonderfully created and made for His wonderful purposes. Use these verses to get you started:
Genesis 1:27 Genesis 1:31 Psalm 139:14 I Peter 4:10
This fun crocodile-themed craft which I found on the amazing blog Easy Peasy and Fun (and which I am sharing here with their permission) was a big hit with my class. They especially loved the crocodile’s big, toothy smile. As we made the crocodiles, we chatted about what special gifts God has given us. If not big toothy grins, then what? Their answers were thoughtful and fun. Here’s the link to the craft: https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/craft-stick-crocodile-craft/ or you can follow this helpful video tutorial:
10:25 WRAP UP: As children are finishing up craft – have them review who the various characters in today’s story are supposed to remind us of. Then, give thanks that God loves us and created us with His special purpose and that He loves us very much. That is the beautiful message of today’s story.
There’s an ADORABLE new picture book out just in time for the new school year called KARATE KID. Written by Rosanne L. Kurstedt and illustrated by Mark Chambers, KARATE KID (Running Press Kids, 2019) is a kid-friendly introduction to the basics of karate starring a goat! Here’s the official blurb: “Follow Kid as he goes through the major stances and karate moves, teaching readers to channel focus and strength through each pose. Karate Kid‘s simple, measured, and meditative text is complemented by playful yet instructive illustrations by Mark Chambers to teach youngsters how to get involved in karate–and to have fun while doing so, too.” A great and accurate description… and I’m not the only one who agrees. Booklist recently praised the book this way: “Solid color backgrounds keep readers focused on the book’s entertaining but accurate content, and the smoothly written text incorporates the mental component of the sport. . . . [A] solid introduction to karate.”
To celebrate its release, Hands of Life Martial Arts in Garwood, NJ hosted an amazing karate-themed launch event. The two hour event included…
demos with Sensei Arthur and some of his students as well as an opportunity for guests to try their hands and breaking boards……
lots of opportunity to chat with the author and pose at the photo booth…
and wait eagerly in line… to have our books signed!
I hope these pictures give you a sense of the charm and fun, not only of the event, but of the book itself. I can’t wait to share my newly signed copy with all my teacher friends as well as our children’s librarian. Happy reading, all!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND ILLUSTRATOR:
Rosanne L. Kurstedt, Ph.D. has been an educator for over 20 years –first as a classroom teacher in NYC and then as a staff developer. She lived in Hong Kong where she was part of the development and leadership team that opened Hong Kong Academy international School. After returning to the United States, she received her Doctorate from Fordham University in Language, Literacy, and Learning. She currently is an Adjunct Professor at Hunter College, writes for educational publishing companies, and is the Associate Director of READ East Harlem.
As the Assistant Regional Advisor of the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, she helps other authors and illustrators navigate the children’s book industry and hone their craft.
She’s also the founder of The Author Experience, a 501(c)3 organization committed to the transformative power of sharing stories. In collaboration with students, families and educators, TAE provides sustainable literacy-based experiences that build a culture of literacy–one that elevates connections and delivers lasting impact.
Mark Chambers is an author and illustrator of children’s picture books and young fiction. He studied Illustration at the University of London. In 2017, he was shortlisted for the AOI World Illustration Awards, and in 2013 for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. Since then Mark has illustrated a wealth of picture books and young fiction. In 2013, he won the Sheffield Children’s Picture Book Award and was also highly commended in the young fiction category. He also illustrated KARATE KID’s companion book, YOGA FROG.
Summer is a magical time. The days are long and filled with adventure. Everything is less structured. Even bedtime routines become more relaxed. For our family that means lots of after dinner swims and strolls downtown for ice cream. And what fun it is to hang out on the front porch chatting and listening to the sounds of the night.
When my kids were little, it was even more magical because one of their favorite after dinner activities was chasing lightning bugs at twilight. Even Sophie, our pooch, would join in the fun and when the bugs landed on her black fur, she’d light up like magic in the dark!
But as August winds down, it was (and still is) time to rein in bedtime and restore earlier, more calming bedtime routines so that everyone is rested and ready for the start of school.
With that in mind, what FUN this morning to see GOODNIGHT, ARK included in this round up of cozy bedtime stories from Zonderkidz – perfect for sailing into fall with a cozy bedtime routine. Interested in checking out the list? I’ll make it easy for you. Press here.
Today I am delighted to be hosting children’s author Lydia Lukidis as we celebrate the release of her darling new picture book NO BEARS ALLOWED illustrated by Tara J. Hannon and published by Blue Whale Press. Congratulations, Lydia! Now, without further fuss, here are FIVE FUN FACTS about the books from the author herself. Take it away, Lydia!
Five Fun Facts about NO BEARS ALLOWED
By Lydia Lukidis
FACT #1: This book took….years to become a reality.
This is likely no surprise for all the authors out there! We all know the industry, and even the writing process, can operate at a snail’s pace. Let’s break it down:
The concept of the book first came to me in 2015.
But I had to flesh out my ideas for another year before I even attempted to write the story.
In 2016, I felt ready and wrote the first draft.
I continued to workshop and edit drafts for another year.
Then I got some critiques from my critique partners, and I was back to the drawing table.
In 2017, the ms was out with (then) first agent. Things didn’t work out.
Then my second agent looked at it, but passed because she deemed it “too quiet.”
So, I decided to be brave and submit it to publishers myself.
The take-away: always believe in yourself even when others don’t.
FACT #2: I confess: Rabbit and I are similar!
I deeply empathize with Rabbit. He’s afraid, he’s anxious, and worries about pretty much everything. But I find these qualities to be endearing because we all have our weaknesses. What I love about Rabbit is that he learns to face his fears and develops a new point of view.
I do admit: Rabbit and I may have a few things in common. I do tend to over-worry and over-think, and I’ve been held back by fear at certain moments in my life. Through the years, I have learned to be bold, and really challenge myself.
I don’t like heights! Hey, let’s go ziplining!
I’m afraid of the ocean! Let’s go paddle boarding!
And so on.
There’s nothing like facing your fears head on and pushing through your limits; it will change the very fabric of your soul.
FACT #3: A picture book is more than just words.
Sure, the story and characters are important. But they’re brought to life by the illustrator. I was fortunate to work with the talented illustrator Tara J. Hannon and she brought the book to the next level. Tara did beautiful illustrations and exceeded my expectations. But she did more than that. The editor (Alayne Christian) and I were careful to give her artistic space, and let her create. She came up with her own ideas that complimented the book quite nicely. But most importantly, she helped me re-assess who Rabbit was. I had initially seen him as an older creature, with spectacles. She helped me create a version of Rabbit more accessible to kids. A hilarious, younger version emerged, holding his binoculars tightly. I could not be more grateful.
FACT #4: This is the first fiction book I’ve published in a while.
These days, I’ve been very drawn to nonfiction. My last 3 picture books were all STEM books published by Kane Press (A REAL LIVE PET!, THE SPACE ROCK MYSTERY, THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST). Years ago, I studied science and it’s been fun to incorporate all that knowledge into my books for children. But it’s also nice to get back into the world of fiction and make-believe. NO BEARS ALLOWED helped me re-connect to that magic. This journey reminds me that I still love fiction, and will be forever writing it!
FACT #5: The world would be a brighter place if we listened to Rabbit and Bear!
Rabbit goes through a transformative process on his journey and learns some life changing lessons. He finally understands that he should not pre-judge anyone and make rash assumptions. He has a certain concept of bears, and then finds out how wrong his assumption is. The other takeaway is that we all have more in common than we think. Imagine how different the world would be if we all adopted this perspective! Friendship is magical. And you never know where it will pop up. Lastly, I love how Rabbit faces his fears head on, despite his trepidation. That’s great advice for us all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books. Her latest STEM books include The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery.
Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence.
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!