In The Classroom with THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK (plus a Giveaway!)

It may not be normal but THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a hilarious read-aloud that can also be used in fun lessons about language arts, science, and social-emotional discussions about collaboration and compromise.

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK begins as a stroll through the common, every day, normal animals – mammal, bird, amphibian, insect, reptile, and fish. The story quickly evolves, however, into a meta-fiction disagreement between the author and illustrator over how to draw the animals. The author wants simple, normal animal drawings. The illustrator, however, is confused and makes a bit of a mess. The conflict reaches its peak when the illustrator refuses to draw the author’s choice of fish. Granted, the blobfish is an unusual choice of fish.

With the below activities, kids will laugh while learning! Here are a few fun ways to use the book in your classrooms:

The Magic of Voice

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a book in two voices – the author and the illustrator. Before reading the book aloud, ask the kids to create the book characters so they can act out the story. They can draw pictures of an author and an illustrator and glue them onto craft sticks, or make puppets out of socks or paper lunch bags, or bring in stuffed animals to represent the two different characters. Anything works! Have fun as the kids join in on the storytelling with their “characters!” For older readers, you can take the dramatic read-aloud to the next level by discussing the personality traits of each character as reflected in their dialog.

What Kind of Animal is That?

Different animal classes have different characteristics. Use the back matter in THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK to brainstorm animals in each category and then play animal charades! The kids can play individually or in teams and act out different animals while others guess the animal and its classification!

Collaboration and Compromise

In THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK, the author and illustrator don’t agree on how the animals should be presented. In the classroom, you can reenact this author-illustrator dynamic by having the kids write a short story with the plan that it will be illustrated. Then, ask them to illustrate someone else’s story! Discuss the challenges and benefits of relinquishing control over the art. Reflect on any conflicts or compromises that were encountered along the way, and how they were resolved. Some qualities that make for good collaboration include: Listen to the other person; when you disagree with someone’s opinion, disagree with the idea, not the person (respect one another); and, allow for compromise if there is a disagreement.

For complete standards-aligned lesson plans for grades PreK-6, visit http://juliesegalwalters.com/index.php/2017/10/31/teachers-guides-are-available/!

 Julie Segal-Walters is the author of THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before becoming a writer, Julie was the president and founder of Civic Action Strategies, a grassroots organizing and democracy development consulting firm. She worked in Kosovo, where she directed citizen engagement programs for U.S. and European organizations.

You can find more information about Julie on her website or on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY TIME! Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway of a FREE classroom Skype visit (+book swag for the students)!

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Dedicated to Dedications III

Have you ever wondered about the stories behind the dedications in your favorite books?

In this latest addition to our posts about dedications, a few more Picture the Books authors share stories about their dedications. In this rare glimpse behind the scenes, the authors give us insight about who they honored and why.

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Julie Segal-Water’s debut book, THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK, illustrated by Brian Biggs, will be released on October 31, 2017 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Julie dedicated her book to two very, very supportive people in her life.

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I dedicated the book to my husband and son because they are my everything. They both also made considerable contributions to the book — from the inspiration arising from reading to my son, to my husband’s push to attend the conference where I met my editor, to cheering for me ceaselessly, and even to suggesting lines that appear in the book. Further, the word “uncompromising,” has double meaning. It refers to my unyielding love for my family, and signals the book’s central meta-fiction conflict — an author who does not want to compromise with the illustrator on how to draw the animals in the book.

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I HAVE A BALLOON is Ariel Bernstein’s debut picture book. Illustrated by Scott Magoon, and published by Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. It’s in stores now!

Ariel’s dedication is about the two people who inspired the book. Hint: They happen to be very close to her.

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I dedicated my book to my two children because they inspired the story of two characters, an owl and a monkey, who both want a shiny red balloon. My daughter thinks she’s more like Owl and her brother is more like Monkey, which is probably true.

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Marcie Colleen’s debut, LOVE, TRIANGLE, illustrated by Bob Shea, was just released on October 3rd from Balzer + Bray.

Marcie’s dedication is to a few of her besties who offered support though the crazy world of children’s publishing.

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My three bestest girlfriends are fellow writers Kat Yeh, Joyce Wan, and Amber Alvarez. To say that they complete me would be an understatement. We all met through writing conferences and quickly became a foursome, supporting each other with giggles and tears every step of the way. 

When LOVE, TRIANGLE went to auction, Kat and Joyce, with Amber on speaker phone, held vigil with mimosas and much needed “auction watching.” We started to call our group the Love Quadrangle shortly after. 

It was a no-brainer, come dedication time that this book would be for these very special women in my life. The best part was that I kept it a secret until Kat saw the book at Book Expo America and read the dedication. Sometimes making your BFFs cry is a good thing. 🙂

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Emma Otheguy’s first picture book, MARTI’S SONG FOR FREEDOM, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal is available now.

Her dedication story is both inspiring and in Spanish! 

marti dedicationI dedicated this book to my parents, in Spanish, because they were the people who first shared José Martí and Cuban culture with me. In the dedication, I reference our trips down I-95 to visit family in Miami, and how my parents would always point out the royal palms (palmas reales) that reminded them of Cuba. A hundred years earlier, palmas reales had also been a symbol of longing and love for Cuba to José Martí. 

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Patricia Toht’s latest picture book, PICK A PINE TREE, is illustrated by Jarvis and published by Candlewick.

This book is appropriately dedicated to her favorite holiday helpers.

 

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This book is dedicated to my four children. Our family is crazy about Christmas celebrations and decorating the tree is always a fun, noisy event. Every year I buy the kids new ornaments, usually signifying a special moment from that year. I put little white tags on the ornaments to specify whose is whose (and avoid arguments), and now our tree looks like it is a salesman’s sampler of ornaments!

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Andrea J. Loney had two picture books published this year. BUNNY BEAR, illustrated by Carmen Saldana (Albert Whitman and Company, January 2017), and TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE, (Lee & Low Books, July 2017), illustrated by Keith Mallett.

 

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Both are dedicated to special people in her family.

This was my first book dedication and I wasn’t sure who to include — my initial list filled up a whole sheet of paper! But even though my friends and family are scattered across the country, across the world, and even on the other side of the veil, I carry them all in my heart. This dedication was my way of including everyone.

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My maternal grandpa was a classical pianist who toured the music halls of Europe during World War 2, and I grew up in awe of his life-long devotion to elegance and artistry. My paternal granddaddy was a joyful Panamanian party guy with an infectious laugh. He connected with the world through his passion for amateur photography, and everywhere he went in the world people were delighted to befriend him. I am so thrilled that this book blends the sensibilities of both of my beloved grandfathers.

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Jannie Ho wrote and illustrated the upcoming picture book, BEAR AND CHICKEN. It will be published by Running press on November 14, 2017.

Her dedication may not be fully appreciated right now, but it certainly will be later!

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It is for my daughter, who is a picky eater but always loved soup. She is at a picture book reading age and I thought she would appreciate having her name in a printed book. 

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Erica Sirotich’s debut as author/illustrator is FOUND DOGS, published by Dial Books this past summer.

Erica proves that no one says you’re required to dedicate your books to a human. Erica’s dedication is to the inspiration behind the book!

 

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russell redfurFOUND DOGS is dedicated to my best friend Russell. He’s my thirteen year old terrier. Found Dogs is a counting book about adopting dogs 

from the city shelter and was inspired by his story. Russ was one of those dogs who ended up at an overcrowded animal services facility and had very little time to make it out. On his last day there, he w

as given a second chance by a rescue group. I found Russell a couple weeks later and knew he was the one. Ten years later, he is still the best buddy and studio-mate a girl could ask for. In Found 

Dogs, all the dogs are as lucky as Russ; each one meets his perfect person and goes home. 

 

Two Debut Interview – Ariel Bernstein and Hannah Barnaby

ihaveaballoonIn today’s Picture the Books Two Debut interview, debut author Hannah Barnaby interviews debut author Ariel Bernstein about I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017)!

 

Hannah Barnaby: Congratulations on your debut, Ariel! What was the initial inspiration for I HAVE A BALLOON and the characters of Monkey and Owl?

Ariel Bernstein: I was at my first SCBWI conference, listening to Laura Vaccaro Seeger talk about her book, GREEN. I started to think of colors and the image of a red balloon popped into my head with the idea of two characters who both wanted it, which was based on a lot of interactions my kids have had when one has a tempting object! When I got home, I went into their rooms and found stuffed animals of an owl and a Curious George doll. I figured an owl and monkey would go together pretty well.

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HB: They certainly do! And I think most kids (and parents!) can relate to that sudden burning desire for something you never knew you wanted. As Monkey says, “The only thing I’ve ever wanted, since right now, is a shiny big red balloon!” Was there something you desperately wanted as a child? (And did you get it?)

AB: For a long time, we didn’t have a television in my house. Luckily my best friend lived across the street and not only did she have a television, but she also had cable. So I was at her house quite a lot! My parents eventually got a television when they realized the value of renting movies.

HB: I bet a lot of kids will be shocked to hear that you survived life in a household with no TV! Now, let’s talk about collaboration. When I talk to people about writing picture books, they’re often surprised to hear that I had very little direct interaction with the illustrators before the book was published. Was that your experience, too? What about afterwards?

AB: I have the good fortune of being paired with Scott Magoon on this book. He’s had an incredible career so far as both an author and illustrator, and I never imagined talking to him about the illustrations while he was working on them because it’s completely in his hands and the editor’s. I’ve gotten to know Scott a bit from touching base during publication and he’s as nice as you’d expect! And it’s been fun to tag each other in our promotion of the book on social media as the pub date gets closer J

My experience with Mike Malbrough, the illustrator for our chapter books, WARREN & DRAGON, has been a little different. I know Mike personally from a local writers group that we’re in, as well as Picture The Books. Because we meet up in person, sometimes I’ve gotten to see some sneak peeks of sketches which is very cool! And I get to hear about the behind the scenes work of what he does. As an author-only it’s really interesting because usually it’s such a mystery.

HB: So you’ve experienced varying degrees of collaboration between your first two books. Writing picture book texts when you aren’t the illustrator comes with some challenges, but it also comes with a lot of fun surprises. When you saw Scott Magoon’s illustrations for BALLOON, were there things you didn’t expect? Was it difficult at all to shift from your vision of the story to his?

AB: The biggest surprise was the lemur character at the very end! It’s such a perfect way to end the story, as it leaves the reader guessing what could happen next. I love all the details that Scott brought to the story from his imagination and how he interpreted the text.

The only adjustment I made was that I imagined reading the story a certain way based on how page turns might go. The layout of the book ended up being a bit different, so the beats in how I read the text out loud has changed. But I get a great reaction from kids so I’m very happy with it!

HB: I know there’s another Owl and Monkey adventure coming our way (yay!). Can you give us any inside scoop about WHERE IS MY BALLOON?

AB: WHERE IS MY BALLOON? is about what happens when Monkey loses Owl’s balloon, and is desperate to act as though everything is fine. It’s scheduled for September 2018 and I’m hoping it will elicit many giggles from readers!

HB: Your first chapter book is coming out next year: WARREN & DRAGON’S 100 FRIENDS. Congratulations! How is your writing process different for picture books and longer stories? Is one easier for you than the other?

AB: Thank you! Writing the first draft of picture books is much easier than writing the first draft of a chapter book, no doubt because it’s so much shorter. But when revising it’s the opposite. I could write thirty or more versions of a picture book before I’m happy with it, but only need to revise a few times for a chapter book. I think the revising is harder with a picture book because every word has to be perfect. There’s a bit more leeway in chapter books in getting from the beginning to the end.

HB: Well, here’s hoping we get LOTS more books of all kinds from you, Ariel!

 

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Ariel Bernstein is a picture book, chapter book, and short story writer. Her debut picture book is I Have a Balloon, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017.) Monkey desperately wants Owl’s balloon and tries everything to get what he wants—this is not a book about sharing. Ariel’s debut chapter book, Warren & Dragon’s 100 Friends (Viking Children’s, Spring 2018) is a modern-day CALVIN AND HOBBES-esque tale involving a dreamy boy, his smarty-pants twin sister, and his vain dragon companion. You can find Ariel online, or on Twitter @ArielBBooks.

 

barnabyhannahframeHannah Barnaby is a former children’s book editor and independent bookseller, and served as the first Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library. The author of two acclaimed young adult novels, Hannah makes her picture book debut with Bad Guy, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Simon & Schuster, May 2017), the story of a little boy who learns that being a bad guy is awesome…but it can come with consequences. In June 2017 comes Garcia & Colette Go Exploring, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), in which two friends journey to outer space and the deep sea and find that the best place of all is somewhere in between. Hannah lives with her family in Charlottesville, VA, where she teaches creative writing to students of all ages. You can find her online at http://www.hannahbarnaby.com, or on Twitter@hannahrbarnaby.

 

Two Debut Interview – Joy Keller and Alison Goldberg

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Alison Goldberg interviews debut author Joy Keller about MONSTER TRUCKS illustrated by Misa Saburi (Godwin Books/Henry Holt, 2017).

 

Alison: Congratulations on your debut! Before we discuss MONSTER TRUCKS, I see in your bio that you have experience driving trucks on a blueberry farm. What was that like?

 

Joy: I drove a pickup truck that was converted into a surrey. I’d pick up customers and drop them off to pick blueberries. The farm was forty acres. Sometimes the surrey also doubled as a rescue truck, so I’d have to drive really fast over the bumps in the field. It was a fun job, and a chance to learn to drive a stick shift.

Alison: And great research for writing a truck book! If you could visit the world of any picture book, which would it be?

Joy: If I had to pick a character that I would want to hang out with, it would be Otter from the OTTER books by Sam Garton. Otter is so funny and gets into so much trouble. She reminds me of my own kids. If I was just looking at pictures, I would choose the very old-school fairy tale worlds created by Trina Schart Hyman. LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD and SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON books from when I was a kid have amazing illustrations. I’d like to walk through those worlds.

Alison: Where did the idea for MONSTER TRUCKS come from?

Joy: When my kids were little, my daughter only liked Halloween books and my son only liked truck books. We would check the same books out of the library all the time. I wondered why there wasn’t a book combining the two. It could be called MONSTER TRUCKS! Once I had the title, the story followed.

Alison: MONSTER TRUCKS is such a perfect blend of these two themes. Do you have a favorite Halloween costume from childhood?

Joy: My parents did a really good job making elaborate homemade costumes for me. One year, I was the Queen of Hearts. My mom copied every little detail of a playing card onto the front and back of my poster board costume. I didn’t want to take it off at school, but I couldn’t sit in it, so I stood for much of the day.

Alison: What’s your favorite truck?

Joy: When I was a kid I loved the street cleaner with a vacuum tube used to suck up debris. I called it the elephant truck.

Alison: That sounds like the start of another truck book. As a teacher, do you ever share your picture book manuscripts with your students?

Joy: I do. I also share my revisions. Kids often think that when you are a writer you only need to write something once, and I like to show them that even published writers need to rewrite stories many times. I share my rejection letters, too, so they can see that part of the process.

Alison: How will you celebrate the release of MONSTER TRUCKS?

Joy: My release party is taking place in an ice cream shop called Moonlight Creamery. They’re going to rename all of their ice cream flavors to match the book, including a flavor called “Tire Tracks.”

 

Alison: How fun! You have a few other picture books coming out after your debut. Can you tell me about them?

 

Joy: I’m so excited about MISS TURIE’S MAGIC CREATURES (Innovation Press, 2018), a book about a pet store that sells mythical beasts.

I also have a nonfiction book about fungus coming out in 2019 called THE FUNGUS AMONG US (Innovation Press, 2019). My son developed a fascination with mushrooms when he was little, so we go on hikes and get pictures of different varieties. They’re cool to look at and learn about, but I don’t especially like to eat mushrooms!

Alison: I look forward to reading these books. Thanks, Joy! Congratulations!

 

Joy Keller isn’t a monster, but she does have experience driving trucks on a blueberry farm. Her debut picture book, MONSTER TRUCKS (Henry Holt, 2017), is all about monsters and the vehicles that match their personalities, from the skeleton crew that fixes roads to the werewolf who digs, digs, digs. Joy currently teaches elementary students of all ages and lives in Fairport, NY with her husband, two children, and four cats. You can visit her at www.joykellerauthor.com or find her on Twitter @jrkeller80.

 

Alison Goldberg is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, December 2017) is her debut picture book. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more at www.alisongoldberg.com or on Twitter @alisongoldberg.

Two Debut Interview – Alison Goldberg and Andrea Loney

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Alison Goldberg interviews debut author Andrea J. Loney about her two new picture books, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! and BUNNYBEAR.

Congratulations on both of these wonderful books, Andrea! Before we discuss them, your bio says that you once ran away to live with the circus… What was that like?

Yes, after I got my MFA, I ran away with Big Apple Circus in New York so I would have something to write about besides being a student. I met amazing people (and animals) from all over the world, learned the secret to making magic every day (hard work and dedication), and started my entertainment career with an intriguing resume (“you worked at a WHAT?!). It was one of the greatest adventures of my life and I suggest that everyone run away with a circus someday.

That sounds like a very inspiring setting! If you could visit the world of any picture book, what would it be?

Ooh, good question! Right now it’s a tie between dancing and partying with the dinosaurs in Kelly Starling Lyons ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR, or knitting and singing sea chanteys with the mateys in Diana Murray’s NED THE KNITTING PIRATE. Tough decision.

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TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! is the story of a real photographer. How did you find your subject?

Ever since I was a kid, I loved looking through vintage Victorian-style African American photographs. Years later I read a biography of James VanDerZee and discovered that even though he’d been taking pictures since he was a child, he didn’t get “discovered” as an artist until he was in his 80s! That’s when I realized that I just had to find a way to share his amazing comeback story with children.

The depth of research shines through on every page. What was your process like? Did you uncover particular details that surprised you?

Thank you! The book covers about 85 years of his life, so there was a lot of material to wrangle. I read everything I could find on him, I looked at hundreds of his photographs, I spoke to people who’d met him — including his widow, and I even ended up searching through public records online to fill in some of his family details. The most surprising things that I found in the research is that James VanDerZee was raised in a fairly integrated town where black and white people attended school and church together and that he became the unofficial town photographer at age 15.

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His story is so compelling. What are some of your favorite picture book biographies?

Oh, there are so many that I adore! I love FRIDA by Jonah Winter, ME, JANE by Patrick McDonnell, JIMI SOUNDS LIKE A RAINBOW by Gary Golio, THE COSMOBIOGRAPHY OF SUN RA by Chris Rachka, MANFISH: A STORY OF JACQUES COUSTEAU by Jennifer Berne, NEO LEO: THE AGELESS IDEAS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI by Gene Barretta. SOME WRITER! THE STORY OF E. B. WHITE is not exactly a picture book but it is one of the most delightful biographies I’ve read. I really enjoy picture book biographies that are designed to help the reader experience the world of the story through the subject’s unique point of view.

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TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! won the 2014 Lee & Low New Voices Award.  This writing competition is an important part of efforts to increase diversity in children’s publishing. What has this award meant for your book?

At first, the award meant that I received nicer and personalized rejection letters! But the Lee & Low New Voices Award has definitely brought more attention to my writing. It got the attention of my agent, Jill Corcoran, and after she saw my other work she decided to sign me. The award has definitely put this book on the radar for many teachers, librarians, booksellers and more.

Earlier this year you released another terrific picture book, BUNNYBEAR. How did you get the idea for the story?

I was just brainstorming silly ideas with a friend and I blurted out, “A bear who feels like he’s really a bunny.” But then I thought about all of the times in my life and my friends’ lives when we didn’t feel like we would ever fit in, and how we struggled to just be ourselves.

I love when Bunnybear says, “You just look one way on the outside and feel another way on the inside. That’s okay.” This is such an important statement for children to hear and read, again and again.

The poet E. E. Cummings once said, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” I think it’s important for children to know that even if they don’t always fit into the neat little boxes that society has already laid out for them, they’re still okay. Maybe they’re made to stand out instead. I also remind them that if they just keep being themselves, they’ll eventually find someone who likes them just the way they are.

What’s next for you?

My next book, Double Bass Blues, comes out in 2019 with Random House Knopf. It follows the adventures of an imaginative young black boy as he carries his double bass home through various neighborhoods, surrounded by the music of the city.

And I am always, always, always working on more picture books.

I look forward to reading them. Thank you, Andrea! Congratulations!

 

 

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Andrea J Loney’s picture book BUNNYBEAR, (Albert Whitman & Company, January 2017) is about a bear who believes in his heart that he’s really a bunny. Her upcoming debut picture book, TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE! (Lee & Low Books, Spring 2017), is the 2014 New Voices Award-winning picture book biography of the legendary black photographer of the Harlem Renaissance, and her third picture book DOUBLE BASS BLUES shares the adventures of a young black boy carrying his double bass home from school (Random House Knopf, 2019). A community college instructor with an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, Andrea is also a proud volunteer for Reading to Kids and the We Need Diverse Books campaign. She lives in sunny Los Angeles, California with her devoted family, embarrassingly spoiled pets, and towering stacks of picture books. Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

 

goldbergalisonframeAlison Goldberg is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I LOVE YOU FOR MILES AND MILES, illustrated by Mike Yamada (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, December 2017) is her debut picture book. Before becoming a children’s book author, Alison worked for economic justice organizations and wrote a resource guide about social change philanthropy. These days, she blogs about activism in children’s literature and loves researching everything from marine life to contemporary art for her books. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Learn more at www.alisongoldberg.com or on Twitter.

 

Thanks for supporting and celebrating 2017 picture book debuts with us! You can learn about more great debut authors, illustrators and books in our Creator and Book galleries. Keep in the loop on all the excitement by following @picturethebooks on Twitter and Instagram, too!

Two Debut Interview: Hannah Rodgers Barnaby and Michelle Schaub

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Michelle Schaub discusses Garcia & Colette Go Exploring with debut author Hannah Barnaby.

garcia and colletteIt’s summertime!  What better way to capture the anticipation and excitement of summer break than with Garcia & Colette Go Exploring, released at the beginning of June.  Hannah’s book traces the exploits of two energetic and adventurous friends, Garcia and Colette.  Unfortunately, the pair can’t agree on whether space or sea would make a better destination, so they go their separate ways to explore. But they quickly discover that they each left the most important thing behind…and that their two favorite places have more in common than they thought.

MS: Hello Hannah! Let’s launch this interview adventure with a few warm up questions.  Garcia and Colette both have very definite opinions on their favorite place to explore. If YOU could choose to explore the world of any picture book, which world would it be? Why?

curious gardenIt almost depends on the season, doesn’t it? Now that we’re deep in the throes of summer, I think the lush landscape of Peter Brown’s THE CURIOUS GARDEN would be the perfect place to escape and wander. I don’t have a trace of gardening ability, myself, but my husband and my mother-in-law are wonderful at it and I get to reap the benefits!

 

MS: Garcia and Colette each set off on their own, but they both grow lonely for company.  Growing up, did you have siblings?  Did you ever wish for time alone or did you crave company?

I was the oldest of three, and the only girl, so I definitely valued my time alone! It wasn’t unusual for me to spend an entire weekend hiding out in my room and reading a stack of books. But some of my fondest memories are of romping around outside with my brothers, learning to use a pogo stick and climbing the rope ladder to our treehouse. That balance of together and alone is still what works best for me. And now I have three kids of my own!

MS: I love the idea of finding a balance between together and alone time.  I’ve found that pets can help you feel “together” even when you are alone. Tell me about the pet/s you had growing up.

A parade of cats, starting with Merlin and Gandalf (who were named by and inherited from family friends), and we always had them in pairs, for maximum entertainment. My first solo pet was a turtle named Harry, who didn’t last long. I might very well have loved him to death. My brother Jesse had a little gray dove gerbil named Sheila (he named everything very seriously—his teddy bear was called Michael). I always wanted something more exciting, but then I babysat for a family that had a pet monkey and I quickly realized that there’s a lot to be said for pets who are quiet…and don’t require diapers.

MS: I can imagine that taking care of a monkey would be quite a job.  Speaking of jobs…Garcia blasts into space like an astronaut. Colette dives into the deep blue like an oceanographer. Besides the adventurous job of being an author, what other interesting jobs have you had?

Almost all of my jobs have had something to do with books and reading: library assistant, preschool teacher, indie bookseller. But even the exceptions were good for gathering stories. All through college, I worked at a drugstore and it was fascinating to see what combinations of items people bought. After college, I worked in a law office as a foreclosure paralegal—I sort of accidentally took the advice of a wise college professor and started right away with a job that showed me what I didn’t want to do. That spurred me on to move to Boston and get a degree in children’s literature, which led to an internship at Houghton Mifflin where I worked for six years as an editor.

MS:  With all of your book-related jobs, I imagine you’ve done A LOT of reading.  Can you share your favorite first line of any book, any genre?

Even though I’m writing picture books now, novels were my first love, as a reader and an editor and a writer, and I’ve always been partial to the first line of Dodie Smith’s I CAPTURE THE CASTLE: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.” The entire book is a sustained journey through another world, just as the best novels always are, and that line immediately sets the tone.

MS: Thanks for answering those warm-ups with an explorer’s spirit.  Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your book. Garcia and Colette go on quite a voyage, literally and emotionally, in this book.  Can you describe your own voyage in creating Garcia and Colette Go Exploring?

I first had the idea for Garcia and Colette about five years ago—I attended a dinner for prospective graduate students at the University of Virginia, where my husband works, and I sat between an astronomer and a marine biologist. As I listened to them speak about why they chose those fields of study, I started to hear parallels in their language and their characterization of outer space and the deep ocean. By the end of the dinner, I had tuned out everything else and was thinking my way through a rough draft.

At that point, though, I wasn’t an experienced picture book writer and I was still learning how to write concisely—I think the first draft of Garcia & Colette was about twice as long as the finished book (which is around 620 words). It took a few more drafts to tap into the simplicity of the story so the parallel structure could shine through. My agent, Linda Pratt, patiently waited for me to figure it out and I finally did, on a writing retreat in the summer of 2014. I sent her the new version by email and she called me about an hour later and said, “You did it.” (And then I did a little dance in the airport.)

MS: Both of your characters pack specific items, including peanut butter sandwiches, to prepare for their journeys. What tools would you suggest prospective writers pack for their own writing exploits?

One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever gotten was from Tim Wynne-Jones, who told me not to fetishize anything about the writing process. Very few of us have lives that allow us to write at the exact same time every day, or only use one kind of pen, or a certain scented candle. It’s important to know what works for you but also to be flexible about how you work—I’ve drafted picture books and novel scenes by talking into my phone while driving, or writing in a notebook during my daughter’s soccer practice.

MS: Great advice!  (I’ve definitely taken advantage of waiting for soccer practice as writing time myself.) For our last question, will you share what you hope kids experience, feel, or learn from reading your book?

My favorite part of reading Garcia & Colette to kids is the moment when they recognize the pattern in what Garcia and Colette are writing. There’s always one little boy or girl who can’t help but call out, “They’re saying the same things!” Those moments of decoding and discovery are absolutely what make books so totally magical . . . and why I feel so lucky to be writing them.

Well, Garcia & Colette is definitely a magical book and readers who discover it are lucky indeed. Thanks for sharing your writing adventure with us, Hannah!

barnabyhannahframeHannah Rogers Barnaby is a former children’s book editor and indie bookseller, and was the first-ever Children’s Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library. Her debut young adult novel, Wonder Show, was a William C. Morris Award finalist, and her second novel, Some of the Parts, received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly and was named a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year for 2016. Hannah makes her double picture book debut in 2017 with Bad Guy, illustrated by Mike Yamada, and Garcia and Colette Go Exploring, illustrated by Andrew Joyner. Hannah writes and teaches creative writing in Charlottesville.

schaubmichelleframeMichelle Schaub is a children’s author, poet, and teacher. Her work appears in the anthologies And The Crowd Grows Wild: A Global Gathering of Sports Poetry and The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations. She is also the author of the Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge, 2017.) Michelle Schaub teaches middle school language arts at The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois, where she shares her love of poetry with her students. When she’s not teaching and writing, Michelle loves hiking, biking, and exploring farmers’ markets. You can see more of her work at www.michelleschaub.com.

Two Debut Interview – Heather Preusser

It’s time for another Picture the Books Two Debut Interview!

Today, Julie Segal Walters interviews Heather Preusser about her debut picture book, A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS.

In this book, Petra and her family lead their prize dairy cows into the pastures to graze, and each cow wears her own jingling, jangling, clanging bell. What a symphony! But when Petra’s favorite cow, Elfi, loses her bell the whole herd is out of harmony and refuses to move. Will Petra be able to find Elfi’s bell before it’s too late? With charming illustrations by Eileen Ryan Ewen, this whimsical story is sure to delight children and adults alike.

 

JSW: Welcome, Heather! Let’s start our interview with some warm-up questions. First, if you could live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be and why?

HP: I would love to live in A CHILD OF BOOKS by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. I’ve always been a Jeffers fan and I have a soft spot for postmodern meta-fiction (like your upcoming book!), but, as both an English teacher and a writer, this book melted my heart. Here’s the summary from the dust jacket: “A little girl, a child of books, sails her raft across a sea of words and arrives at the house of a young boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories…where, with only a little imagination, anything at all can happen.” Winston shapes his topographical landscapes using the text from forty children’s classics, which are listed in the end papers. As I child, I too got lost in “forests of fairy tales.” Because of my mother’s mental illness, I escaped into books, seeking solace and solutions within the prose. The younger version of me would have loved to “travel over mountains of make-believe.” The older version of me is still traveling.

JSW: The poetry of your language of seeking solace and solutions speaks so beautifully to the power of books to transport readers, which is why so many of us write for children. Is there a published picture book that you wish you could have written?

HP: I love everything by Julie Fogliano, but I especially love IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE (illustrated by Erin E. Stead). Fogliano’s stories are poems; they’re spectacularly spare, and every image, every phrase, every word is perfect: “if you want to see a whale / be careful not to notice / something inching, small and green / across the leaf, just nibble scoot / because things that are smaller than most small things / can’t be as giant as a whale.” “Nibble scoot”? Holy, I-just-saw-a-whale! How picture-perfect is that? As a former Maine-iac, I fell in love with this story even more when I read that Fogliano wrote it while vacationing in Maine one summer. After rereading it for this blog post, it was also a timely reminder that, as a writer, I need to be persistent but patient, very patient (and I should ignore pelicans).

JSW: “Persistent but patient” may be my new favorite line that summarizes children’s publishing. Speaking of favorite lines, what’s your favorite first line of a book?

HP: I’m going to have to go with HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling on this one (and that’s not because I’m a Potterhead who’s been sorted into Hufflepuff and has an eagle for a patronus, I promise). The first line introduces us to Harry’s extremely unmagical aunt and uncle as well as the setting, incorporates clever word play that Rowling weaves throughout the series, piques our interest, and establishes narrative voice – that’s a tall order for one line: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” I also adore this series because it made reading cool again. When the last book in the series was released in 2007, I was attending a creative writing program at the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School in Edinburgh, Scotland. Everywhere I went, on every plane, train, and bus, people – both kids and adults – had their head buried in the book, yet paradoxically no one was allowed to talk about it for fear of ruining the ending.

JSW: Speaking of books, let’s talk about yours! What inspired you to write A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS?

HP: I was inspired when my sister-in-law told me a story about an ornery, old cow she encountered while working on a Swiss dairy farm. Every spring these cows are paraded to the high meadows where their milk is turned into scrumptious cheese. Worried this old cow wouldn’t make the trek with such a heavy bell, the farmer traded her big booming bell for a tiny tinkling one. The cow refused to move. Ultimately, the farmer realized the error of his ways, reunited bell and bovine, and all was well. Thanks to my PiBoIdMo training, I knew this could make a good picture book manuscript, but I needed to increase the tension and create a satisfying ending. Twenty drafts later, and after recruiting two large Alpine crows, I felt ready to submit the manuscript.

JSW: Did it require much research? I bet you spent some time listening to the sounds of bells to get your onomatopoeia just right!

HP: My husband and I have done a lot of hiking in the Swiss Alps; however, most of that hiking and cheese tasting happened before I even had the story idea (does that count as “research”?). I did watch a lot of Rick Steves’ travel videos and have posted two short clips, one about Gimmelwald and one about the cheese making process, on my website. As you mentioned, getting the bell sounds just right was also tricky. In earlier drafts, one of my insightful critique partners (shout out to Carmela LaVigna Coyle) pointed out that a few bells sounded more like drums.

JSW: Will you also talk about your characters’ names. They’re so unique! Is there a story behind them?

HP: My husband is German, so I asked him for suggestions regarding Swiss-sounding cow names. At first we came up with Elfriede but predicted pronunciation would be problematic. It also sounded old-lady-ish, so he nicknamed her Elfi. Petra is named after one of my former roommates, who is not only one of the most determined and compassionate woman I know, but was also instrumental in setting me up with my husband. The real-life Petra now lives in Switzerland with her husband, so I made sure to send her a copy of the book.

JSW: How sweet! Okay, last question. What’s next for you and your writing?

HP: I have a handful of picture books on submission right now. This summer I’m also hoping to pin down a few new picture book ideas that have been bouncing around my head as well as finish the draft of a middle grade novel I began last summer. As a full-time high school English teacher, I find it hard to take advantage of the “crevices of life” that Amy Krouse Rosenthal talks about in one of her Ted talks; I’ll definitely be capitalizing on my summer break and my (almost) two months of uninterrupted writing time!

Thanks so much, Heather, and congratulations on your lovely debut picture book!

Heather Preusser graduated from Williams College and earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. In her debut picture book, A Symphony of Cowbells (Sleeping Bear Press, March 2017), a Swiss dairy cow loses her bell and disrupts the harmony of the herd. When not writing, Heather teaches high school English, bikes the European countryside, and attempts to learn ridiculously long German words. She and her husband reside in Colorado. She can also be found online at www.heatherpreusser.com and on Twitter @HeatherPreusser.

You can buy Heather’s book here!

Julie Segal-Walters is a children’s book author who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, and an international democracy and civil society development specialist. In those days, she was a frequent writer, public speaker, and commentator on NPR, Court TV, and C-Span on civic engagement and religious liberty. These days, Julie can be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Julie is fluent in Spanish, and loves to cook, but not bake. She thinks baking has too many rules. This Is Not A Normal Animal Book is her first picture book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017). Visit Julie online at www.juliesegalwalters.com or on Facebook, Twitter @j_s_dub, or Instagram @juliesegalwalters.

You can buy Julie’s book here!

Stay up-to-date with all the Picture the Books debuts, news, and interviews on Twitter @picturethebooks, on Instagram @picturethebooks and by becoming a follower of our website/blog using the Follow button on this page!

Dedicated to Dedications II

by Peter McCleery for Picture the Books

Have you ever wondered about the stories behind the dedications in your favorite books?

In this post, we continue our blog series to hear the stories behind a few more Picture the Books authors’ dedications. In this rare glimpse behind the scenes, the authors share their personal stories about who they honored and why.

RenatoBarbara DiLorenzo’s debut book, RENATO AND THE LION, will be released on June 20, 2017 by Viking Children’s Books.

Barbara dedicated her book to two important people who made the book possible.

“For my son, Rennie B., who showed me that with a little bit of magic, stone lions come alive. And for Tracy Gates, who brought the words of this story to life. Without you both, this story would remain a collection of notes and sketches.”

RenatoandtheLion

My son inspired the book when he was only 3 years old–and believed a statue of a lion was actually alive. He is 14 today, but that moment stayed with me long enough to become this book. When I sold the book to Viking, it was wordless. Therefore, my editor Tracy Gates deserves credit in helping the words to emerge. 

whobert WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE is Jason Gallaher’s debut picture book. It releases on July 18, 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster.

Jason’s dedication is a touching story about his grandmother who believed in him perhaps more than anyone else. Get the tissues ready because it’s a very touching story.

whobert dedication

I wanted to dedicate this to my Grandma Joan because she was convinced I would become a writer, even when I wasn’t. Whenever I came over to her house, she had a typewriter set up for me with a stack of blank pages. Literally every single phone call we had, she’d ask, “So what are you working on, John Grisham?” She had such a zest for life and she passed that on to me by always reaffirming I could follow my dreams. She got to hear the news that I was getting published, and she was ecstatic. She passed away in December 2015, and I wanted this book to be a tribute to her and her constant support.

old tracksJessica Peterson’s debut, OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS, was published on March 14th by The Innovation Press.

Jessica didn’t have to look far for her inspiration. It was right there in her own family.

My book was inspired by many, many hours of playing trains with my now seven-year-old son, who I call “the Little Engineer” when I blog about our adventures. He was very involved in the process of making the book, and he even makes a cameo appearance near the beginning. I tucked the tracks into the pocket of his well-loved engineer overalls to make the illustration for the dedication page. I especially love the way the three tracks from the book seem to represent my son, my husband, and myself in that image — a happy accident of the creative process!

Old Tracks New Tricks Dedication Photo

 

daddy depotChana Stiefel’s first picture book, DADDY DEPOT, illustrated by Andy Snair is available now from Feiwel & Friends.

Her dedication story is both hilarious and heartfelt!

DADDY DEPOT is dedicated to my Pop and to my husband Larry, with an Unlimited Lifetime Guarantee. When I told my Pop that I was writing a book about a girl who returns her father to the Daddy store, he said, “What? I can’t hear you. My hearing aid’s not working!” (His hearing is fine, BTW!) But the dad in my book has very little resemblance to my own dad and everything in common with my husband. Larry loves football, tells silly jokes all day (as a pediatrician), and snores in our kids’ beds. He also does the best funky chicken touchdown dance ever. In the perfect dad department, I am extremely blessed.

daddy depot dedication

Hannah Barnaby has two picture books coming this spring. BAD GUY, illustrated by Mike Yamada was published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and is available now. GARCIA AND COLETTE GO EXPLORING, illustrated by Andrew Joyner, will be published by Putnam on June 6.

Hannah dedicates both books to those closest to her: her family.

When my husband was a little boy, on the rare occasion he was misbehaving, his mother would say he had changed from Eddie Barnaby to his naughty alter-ego, FBad Guy dedication croppedreddie Hernaby. I’ve always loved this story, because it’s so true that even though kids (all kids!) work hard to behave and follow the rules, there are always times when that naughty side just has to come out. And it’s also true that without my husband’s support, I wouldn’t be able to do this work that I love so much.

G&C dedication croppedIt’s not very original, but this one is dedicated to my son and daughter. I have wanted to write picture books since I was a children’s book editor, but it wasn’t until I became a mom that I really immersed myself in the form. Reading dozens of books with my kids, and seeing which stories drew them in again and again, taught me so much about how picture books work and helped me finally solve the mystery of how to write them.

jabariGaia Cornwall’s first picture book, JABARI JUMPS, was published on May 9th by Candlewick.

In Gaia’s dedication story, below, we learn all about her family and how they inspired her.

Larkin and Rowan are my daughter and son. Lark was a month old when I came up with the dedication and already it fit perfectly. When I was pregnant, after having to come back for a second ultrasound because she wouldn’t stop moving, the tech advised us to “get that girl in gymnastics as soon as possible!” And Ro is my sweet, sensitive, then two year old, who helped our family come up with the phrase “Use your bravery!” –Which we now say to each other all the time.

jabari dedication

dadGina Perry’s first book, IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD, written by Dan Bar-el, is available now from Tundra Books.

Her dedication made for a nice surprise!

“To my loves: Piper the Unicorn, Miles the Robot and Kristian the Dad”

 

My children and husband are my anchors. I would not be making picture books without their love and support, so of course I wanted to dedicate the first picture book I illustrated to them. It was especially fun to keep it a secret until my advance copies arrived! Also, I loved that Dan Bar-el’s story included characters that fit each of them. 

 

londonPatricia Toht’s debut picture book, ALL ABOARD THE LONDON BUS, illustrated by Sam Usher, was released on May 4th by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

If you are a fan of the Chuggington TV show, you’ll love her dedication story.

Don is my husband. He and a friend co-created the TV show Chuggington, which was produced in the UK. Lucky for us, that job brought our family to London, where we lived for four years. It was a magical time for us, and the poems in the book reflect places we went and things we did.

london dedication

You might be wondering why the initials “D.H.” in the dedication don’t match Patricia Toht’s initials. That’s another funny story. Turns out, Patricia forgot to proof read the dedication page! Oops!

You can learn about these wonderful authors and illustrators – and many more – in our Creator and Book galleries. Thanks for supporting and celebrating 2017 picture book debuts with us! Keep in the loop on all the excitement by following @picturethebooks on Twitter and Instagram, too!

Two Debut Interview: Annie Silvestro

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Kerri Kokias discusses BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB with debut author Annie Silvestro.

 

bunnysbookclub

BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, written by Annie Silvestro and illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, (Doubleday) tells the story of a book-loving bunny who sneaks books from the library and shares them with his forest friends. It’s a true celebration of the power of books and the one-of-a-kind magic of reading.

 

 

KK: One of my favorite lines in BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB is when Bunny misses story time so much, “He had to do something. So, with a flashlight in his paws and hope in his heart, Bunny jumped out of bed and tiptoed through the dark.” Do you have a favorite line of any book, any genre?

AS:  One of my all-time favorite lines comes from one of James Marshall’s GEORGE AND MARTHA stories. “But George never said ‘I told you so.’ Because that’s not what friends are for.” Perfect. (Martha also calls George a “fuss-budget” in this story, which I love.)

KK: If you could take credit for ANY other published PB out there, which one would you choose?

AS: SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE by William Steig is such a classic. I’d love to write something that stands the test of time like so many of my favorites do.

KK: I love that you bring up how much you admire books that stand the test of time. I feel like BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB is a classic, timeless story. Can you tell me a little about how you got the idea for this story?

AS: That is so kind of you to say! The idea started percolating when I was dressed in a bunny costume I wore for a parent show at my children’s school. Sometimes being silly gives you interesting ideas!

KK: Tell me about the pet/s you had growing up. Any bunnies?

AS: No, no bunnies unfortunately! I grew up with a cat named Muffin. She had sharp claws and wasn’t afraid to use them. I have always had a cat – right now, Blinky likes to sit with my son and me whenever we read the WARRIORS books (about cat clans).

KK: Tatjana Mai-Wyss’ illustrations pair so well with this story. What were your thoughts when you first saw her illustrations for BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB?

AS: I was crazy about them immediately! They have a charming, old-fashioned appeal to them and I love each and every character and detail. It’s amazing to me how Tatjana differentiated each animal’s personality. The final spread and the endpapers just knocked me out.

KK: I could live in the world Tatjana created for Bunny. There are so many great details. If you could choose to live in the world of any other picture book, which world would it be? Why?

AS: My first thought was Strega Nona because I am a lover of pasta and having a pot that made it on command would be pretty much the best thing ever. But thinking more, I’d have to say Busytown! I love Richard Scarry and how fun would it be to drive a pickle car or to hang out with Huckle, Hilda, Lowly, Mr. Frumble, Bananas Gorilla, Sergeant Murphy…

KK: BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB is a favorite among teachers and librarians in part because of how highly it values a love of books, have you been doing any school or library visits?

AS: Yes! This has been one of the best parts of the whole experience. Sharing my story with kids and seeing their first-hand reactions has been inspiring and eye-opening.

KK: I hope you’re setting aside time for writing. What new projects have you been working on?

I’m trying, thanks! I’m working on some new picture books and trying my hand at an early chapter book as well.

Thank you, Annie. Congratulations on your debut book. I’m very much looking forward to your future publications.

silvestroannieAnnie Silvestro is a lover of books who reads and writes as much as possible and can often be found shuffling piles of them around so she has a place to sit or someplace to put her teacup. Bunny’s Book Club will be followed by Mice Skating, illustrated by Teagan White (Sterling, Fall 2017) and The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (HarperCollins Fall 2018). Annie lives by the beach in New Jersey with her husband and two sons who also love to read. Visit Annie online at www.anniesilvestro.com or on Twitter and Instagram @anniesilvestro.

BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB is available now. Order online , or purchase it at your favorite bookstore.

kokiaskerriframeKerri Kokias credits most of her story ideas to her “fly on the wall” personality. This means she’s both a keen observer of social interactions and a nosey eavesdropper. Her debut picture book, Snow Sisters (Knopf, November 2017) is about two sisters who enjoy a snow day in their own unique ways. Kerri lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two children, and three dogs. Learn more about Kerri and her writing on her website www.kerrikokias.com, or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @kerrikokias.

 

Stay up-to-date with all the Picture the Books debuts, news, and interviews on Twitter at @picturethebooks, on Instagram @picturethebooks and by becoming a follower of our website/blog using the Follow button on this page!

Two Debut Interview – Gina Perry

Today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, Debut author Ariel Bernstein interviews debut author Gina Perry about Gina’s illustrator debut, IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD (written by Dan Bar-El)! 

Ariel: Gina, congratulations on your picture book debut, IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD!

Gina: Thank you so much, Ariel! I still love that the word debut applies to something in my life. It sounds so formal and celebratory!

Ariel: If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be? Why?

Gina: When I’m working hard on final artwork for a picture book it seems like I live in that world. It’s a wonderful, immersive feeling. If I had to pick another world, it would be Emily Hughes’ Wild. Her environments are gorgeous and mysterious and who wouldn’t want to roll around with friendly (but wild) foxes!

Ariel: You get to pick a pen name – what is it?

Gina: I actually have a pen name! My maiden name is Perry. My married name is very similar (it even rhymes!) so it gets a tad confusing at times. I do like the slight bit of intrigue of having an alias.

Ariel: If you could take credit for ANY other published PB out there, which one would you choose?

Gina: Oh, just about anything by Peter Brown but especially MY TEACHER IS A MONSTER! (NO, I AM NOT.) It has all my favorite things in a picture book: humor, horror, friendship, and a revelation. Every last visual detail is lush but also adds to the story.

Ariel: How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the birth order? Did it matter?

Gina: I am one of three girls, and as I’ve heard all my life, “She’s the baby.” Being the youngest had an enormous impact on my life. I had a lot more freedom and independence, but I was also interested in very different things growing up (books, school, art) so I carved my own path rather than following anything they had done before.

Ariel: Tell me about the pet/s you had growing up.

Gina: Dogs were always part of our home. My favorite little guy was a Lhasa Apso mutt named Fred. He always looked dirty, attacked the mail as it came in the mail slot, and was generally disliked by most of my family. But he waited for me to come home each day and spent all his time with me. There is something really special about having a dog show loyalty to just you in a busy household. That helped me overlook some of his other personality (and hygiene) quirks.

Ariel: Most fun or funniest job you’ve had, besides author/illustrator?

Gina: My first job after college was at a small animation studio in Boston called Olive Jar Studios. It almost felt like an extension of college: all young creatives, fun work, long hours, lots of take-out. I get to impress my kids that I once worked on Pillsbury Doughboy and Nesquik commercials. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s where I met my husband!

Ariel: What do you think would be the perfect Father Day activity?

Gina: Well, hopefully you have a copy of IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD to read, followed by cards and goofy gifts for Dad, a big homemade breakfast spread, and a family ping pong tournament.

Ariel: You have two debut books this year – congratulations! IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD, written by Dan Bar-el and illustrated by you, and SMALL, which you both wrote and illustrated. How did it compare to illustrate a book you wrote versus one written by another author?

Gina: Thank you! I had been working on SMALL for such a long time before it was acquired that it felt easy-breezy and thrilling to actually get down to final art. IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD required a lot more time to brainstorm character, setting, and compositions. I worked on them back to back so it felt more like a happy blur than anything else. I fully admit to tearing up while working on both books. It has been a long journey to publication and I felt the joy of reaching a huge career goal every day.

Ariel: Do you have any advice for illustrators about preparing for a debut publication?

Gina: Absolutely! Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you have lots of advocates wanting the book to succeed. Reach out to anyone who can help you navigate new waters. I have moments where I feel totally clueless about marketing, but I know I can ask friends, my agent, my publicist and find the answers I need.

Ariel: What’s next for you? Are you currently working on a new project?

Gina: I am working on final art for my next picture book as author/illustrator, TOO MUCH! NOT ENOUGH! to be published by Tundra, Summer 2018. This was my very first completed dummy and I am over the moon to get this book into the world. After that I will be working on another picture book for Tundra and hopefully submitting an early reader series proposal that I’ve been too busy to finish.

DEBUT AUTHOR BIO

Gina Perry is an author and illustrator working under the tall pines in New Hampshire.

She grew up in Massachusetts, drawing, playing with yarn, and burning through all the books in the library. Gina went to Syracuse University and worked in animation and as an art director before realizing that children’s books were her true calling. Her debut picture book, It’s Great Being a Dad (Tundra, April 4, 2017) , written by Dan Bar-el, is a hilarious story about imagination, play, and the best parts about being a dad. Her picture book debut as author/illustrator, Small (little bee books, August 1, 2017), is an empowering story about a small girl in the city, who shows us what happens if you take one big and brave step. Future books include Too Much Not Enough (Tundra, Summer 2018) and a yet untitled picture book (Tundra, Summer 2019). Visit her at ginaperry.com or on twitter @ginamarieperry or instagram @ginapineapple

INTERVIEWER BIO

Ariel Bernstein is the author of I HAVE A BALLOON, illustrated by Scott Magoon (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster, Sept. 26, 2017) and the chapter book series WARREN & DRAGON, illustrated by Mike Malbrough (Viking Children’s, Summer 2018). You can find Ariel online at http://www.arielbernsteinbooks.com , and on Twitter @ArielBBooks .

Stay up-to-date with all the Picture the Books debuts, news, and interviews on Twitter at @picturethebooks, on Instagram @picturethebooks and by becoming a follower of our website/blog using the Follow button on this page!