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Two Debut Interview – Jessica Petersen

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, Debut author Ariel Bernstein interviews debut author Jessica Petersen about her debut picture book, OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS, which released in March.

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Ariel: Jessica, congratulations on your picture book debut, OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS! Did you think of the title right away, or did you come up with it sometime after you wrote the story?

Jessica: Thank you so much, Ariel! I’m thrilled that it’s finally out in the world.

OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS is somewhat unusual for a debut picture book in that it was written under contract. I was offered the opportunity to write and photo-illustrate it based on an idea I’d shared with my editor (a STEM-focused picture book about wooden train tracks), and the phrase that became the title was something I mentioned as a possible tagline in our first conversation about what that book would actually look like. Then after about a week of working on the story, I suggested it as the title along with a more developed story idea, and it stuck.

This pattern is repeating itself with the book I’m working on now, and I remember a similar thing happening with my YA work-in-progress. It seems that if I can strike on a good title early on, it helps me define the core and the scope of the story, and from then on I can use it as a touchstone to determine if I’m staying true to what I intend to write.

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

QuestJessica: The world in Quest by Aaron Becker. (Journey, of course, is the first book in the series, and Return comes at the end, but we read Quest first and it’s still our favorite.) The idea of being able to change the world with art — in this case, the bright rainbow chalk sticks — has always really appealed to me. It’s been a theme in my own writing and artwork for a long time.

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

Jessica: For this book, I think Clickety McClack might have been fun. It has kind of a “Boaty McBoatface” vibe. That would crack my son up. I may have to use it for a character someday, in a bedtime story for him if nothing else.

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

0Jessica: That’s a tough one! Off the top of my head, I’ll pick ROBO-SAUCE by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri. We’re big fans of all of their books, but the moment my son and I got to the point in ROBO-SAUCE where the entire book transforms was truly epic, especially because it was built up to and then built upon so skillfully with both the words and illustrations. I would love to be able to create that kind of moment of amazement and laughter for readers with one of my own books.

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

Jessica: I have two much-older half brothers, and both of them went to live with their father as teenagers, so I seem to have gotten a strange grab bag of traits out of the bargain: baby of the family, first born, and only child. That feeling of separation from my siblings likely contributed to my tendency to get engrossed in my own imaginary worlds.

Ariel: Favorite first line of any book, any genre?

ChimeJessica: I’m terrible at choosing a favorite of anything, but the first line of CHIME by Franny Billingsley is wonderfully effective: “I’ve confessed to everything and I’d like to be hanged. Now, if you please.” You have the mystery of wondering why she wants to be hanged — immediately! — plus you get the voice of the protagonist in full force from the beginning.

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

Jessica: When I was young, my family had a wild range of animals: cats, dogs, a guinea pig, a goat herd, a pony (briefly), chickens, parakeets, and even a pig at one point, but I’ve always mainly been a cat person, even when some of those other animals were supposed to be my pets. Cats are pretty much the perfect companions for bookworms, and I almost always named mine after characters in whatever book I had read most recently. My favorite cat (my companion from when I was a teenager until he passed away a few years ago) was an orange tabby who loved to sit in the middle of my son’s wooden train layouts in his golden years. It’s no coincidence that CAT Track in my book was drawn with an orange crayon.

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

Jessica: One of my first jobs was working with Japanese exchange students during the summer. As far as high school/college jobs go, you really can’t beat getting paid to hang out with new friends and show them around town! We also got to play a lot of preschool games and activities with them (they were education majors), which was fun to have an excuse to do as a teenager without looking uncool.

Ariel: The artwork in your book is pretty unique as they’re not the usual picture book illustrations. Can you tell us about it?
Jessica: In addition to some practical reasons for it, we felt it was important to illustrate OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS with photos of real toys so that kids could readily connect the tracks in the book to the ones in their homes and classrooms. But in order to write the book as a story, I needed characters!

Odd One Out squareDuring that first conversation I had with my editor, as I was searching around for characters and a plot to go with my train track concept, I remembered a pattern I’d drawn for a fabric design challenge a few months before. It showed a circle of eight smiling train tracks and a ninth track off to the side, crying because it had been left out of the closed circle. I hurriedly took a photo of a track with my iPad, drew a face on it, and showed it to my editor, along with my initial idea of how we could weave the activities into a story.

Now it’s hard to imagine having done the illustrations any other way — the decision to digitally add faces to the tracks influenced pretty much every aspect of both the pictures and the text. Just the act of putting a face on a train track gets kids thinking about them in a new way, mirroring the way the trains in the book learn that tracks are more than just a railroad for their wheels to roll along.

Old Tracks New Tricks by Jessica Petersen spread 1

I loved working in this style. It made the writing so much easier because I had the physical objects to both inspire and limit me. I love having limitations put on a creative project, because it gets the overly critical, self-editing part of my brain tied up with solving problems, and I’m free to create. Each step in the illustration process — from turning a new tracks and unpainted trains into a old, well-loved train set to setting up/lighting/taking/editing the photos to adding the digital elements — brought new problems to solve and new opportunities for storytelling and character development.

And the best part is that I can now take that process and collaborate on it with my readers. Kids have been sending in photos of their own “track tricks” through the book’s website, and I add faces to the trains and tracks in their photos. It is so fun, and the kids seem as thrilled about the results as I always am!

Ariel: All of the text in your book is dialogue, which I love! What do you enjoy about writing in dialogue?

Jessica: When I was young, the weakest point of my writing was dialogue, so much so that I think it discouraged me from thinking about writing books when I was in high school and college, although I had wanted to be an author in elementary school. I loved writing description, but dialogue? It always sounded flat and fake, and I had no idea how to get better at it, or that I even could get better at it.

After college, I played a collaborative writing game with friends. We each claimed one or more characters in a story world and wrote their parts, often talking back and forth through an online journal format without any dialogue tags or description. As my familiarity with my characters grew, I heard what they would say directly in my head, and I’d have to type quickly to keep up.

When I started writing seriously, I was amazed to find that dialogue seemed to now be the easiest part of writing for me. When I’m working on novel-length manuscripts, I often write a whole scene as dialogue first, and then go back and fill in the rest. It takes some work upfront — I have to know the characters and their inherent and situational points of conflict first — but it’s a real joy to have the words pour out so easily, especially when they’re pouring out in rhyme!

Old Tracks New Tricks by Jessica Petersen spread 2

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

Jessica: If you sit down to write your second book and it seems impossible, remember that you’re now comparing your rough drafts not just to your own level of pre-submission polish, but to a published work that several professionals helped you make as good as possible. If, like me, you also illustrated your book, you may have even more distance from the act of putting those first words down on paper. Especially if — again, like me — you didn’t or couldn’t make time to write during the illustration process.

The best cure I know of is to go back and read the earliest draft of your debut you can find. My editor recently sent me a very early draft of OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS she’d stumbled upon to show me how far it came over the course of writing and rewriting it, and that really helped me put things in perspective and start getting words down on the page again. Even if you think you know what the rough draft was like, you’re quite possibly remembering the second or third draft, not the very early writing you did on the project.

Old Tracks New Tricks by Jessica Petersen spread 3

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

Jessica: I’m working on another book illustrated in the same style as OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS, but about something other than wooden trains this time. I’m in the exciting part where the title and the overall story are in place. The rhymes and rhythms are flowing and the visuals are popping into my imagination. With the previous book as a roadmap, it’s fun and reassuring to have the same landmarks in the development process repeating themselves. I know that isn’t likely to happen with every book, but for now it’s nice to have a sense that things are on course.

 

Jessica Petersen started inventing new tricks for old tracks when her son was a train-obsessed toddler. Their adventures inspire her blog, Play Trains!petersenjessicaframewhere she writes about playing, learning, and reading with kids who love trains. She wrote, photographed, and illustrated OLD TRACKS, NEW TRICKS in her home in Seattle, Washington, where she lives with her husband, her son, and lots of happy wooden train tracks. You can visit Jessica online, on Twitter at @j_e_petersen, and on Instagram at @playtrains. And you can meet the little train tracks at oldtracksnewtricks.com, or on Instagram at @oldtracksnewtricks.

 

 

bernstienarielframeAriel 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.

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.

 

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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!

Two Debut Interview – Lori Richmond

 

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Camille Andros discusses PAX AND BLUE with debut author/illustrator Lori Richmond.

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PAX AND BLUE is illustrator Lori Richmond’s authorial debut (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017). Pax is the littlest everywhere he goes. In school. At playtime. On the train. Then Pax meets a pigeon at the park—he names him Blue and makes a friend who knows what it’s like to be small. And understanding each other can lead to the best friendships. You can purchase Pax and Blue now, or ask for it at your favorite bookseller.

 

CAMILLE: Hi, Lori!  I thought we could take a page out of Cece Bell and Lauren Castillo’s pro book and have a conversation like they did on Phil and Erin Stead’s Number Five Bus blog.

Which brings up several of my favorite things…Cece Bell, Lauren, and the Stead’s. It doesn’t get much better than those four, does it? You are lucky enough to know Lauren right? When did you guys meet?

 

LORI: Yes! Lauren was a former student of my husband’s at School of Visual Arts MFA program. But the first time she and I personally connected was at her reading of CITY CAT at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. 

CAMILLE: Ahhh…the Brooklyn connection. Nice! CITY CAT is adorable. It reminds me a bit of YOUR darling new book PAX AND BLUE!

Do you have favorite authors and/or illustrators that inspire you and your work or PAX AND BLUE specifically?

LORI:  I know, Brooklyn is everywhere, especially in kid lit. I absolutely love Bernard Waber’s LYLE, LYLE CROCODILE. Lyle is this big green thing on every page that stands out against all the neutral backgrounds. I wanted PAX AND BLUE to be a modern version of this. Since the story is about the emotional connection between two friends, I wanted them to really stand out on every page and have their surroundings recede. The background people and environments all visually blend together in the same shade of purple-y gray to allow the eye to go right to Pax and Blue. Was that answer too long?

 

CAMILLE: Not at all. I love it! I love to hear the process/reasoning behind the story and the art. I’m not an illustrator but the art has always been my favorite part of picture books. I love LYLE, LYLE CROCODILE and I love how you incorporated the elements you loved from it into PAX AND BLUE.

Do you remember CRICTOR by Tommi Ungerer? I remember staring at those pictures for what seemed like hours. I was fascinated by the idea of a friendly helpful snake.

How does your process work? Do you come up with the story first and then art or does an image come to you that you create a story around?

LORI:  The story always comes first. Even if the full narrative isn’t there, there is some idea or basic outline in place before I begin drawing. I admire those artists who live with characters for years in their sketchbook and have a lightning strike. That never, ever happens to me. It’s usually not even raining. Writing is hard.

CAMILLE:  I think so too. The only time I’ve ever had a lightning strike was when I was a senior in high school and I hadn’t finished an AP English assignment to write a Thanksgiving poem. My subconscious must have worked on it all night because I woke up early the next morning and wrote the weirdest, wackiest, poem in about one minute flat about decapitating a Thanksgiving Turkey. My teacher read it to every class, and I was so proud. I wish I knew what happened to that poem.

Someone asked me this question once and I thought it was interesting. If you could take credit for writing/illustrating one picture book already out there, which one would it be and why?

LORI:  Fun question! I really love THE CARROT SEED by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson. It is deceptively simple with spare text and simple drawings of figures without environments. But the message of never giving up on what you believe in is so universal and timeless.

CAMILLE:  Yes! It’s the deceptively simple books that are some of the best. I could go back and forth picking your brilliant brain like this every day, but I should let you get back to creating beautiful books.

I’ll leave you with this one last question. If you could tell anything to your six-year old self what would you say?

LORI: “Lori, when you are in 5th grade, you will win the school spelling bee on the word ‘bivouac.’ This will happen after a several-round final battle against a kid named Billy. It will be an incredible triumph that you will continue to share with people when you’re 40.”

CAMILLE:  I can’t think of a better note to end on. Thanks Lori!

Now, everyone should go check out PAX AND BLUE available wherever books are sold!

richmondloriframeLori Richmond is a corporate creative director turned picture book author-illustrator. Her first solo book, Pax and Blue (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), released February 2017. Her second solo book, Bunny’s Staycation (Scholastic), will debut in 2018. Lori is also the illustrator of A Hop is Up! (Bloomsbury) and two more books coming in 2018. As a former contributing editor and media spokesperson for pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump, Lori has appeared as a sought-after expert on all things baby on TODAY, Good Morning America, CNN, and more. She lives and creates with her family in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about Lori at www.LoriDraws.com and on Twitter @loririchmond

 

androscamilleframeCamille Andros is the author of Charlotte the Scientist is Squished, her picture book debut, illustrated by Brianne Farley (HMHKids/Clarion, March 2017). She loves asking questions and won first place in the school science fair when she was in Kindergarten. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband and six children who know a little something about being squished. Visit Camille online at www.camilleandros.com on Twitter @camdros, and Instagram @camilleandros.

 

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 – Michelle Schaub

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Julie Segal Walters discusses FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET with debut author Michelle Schaub.

FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET hit the shelves just in time to join all the spring flowers, fruits, and veggies that will soon start popping up at local farmers’ markets! Michelle’s book follows the adventures of two new friends and their canine companions as they discover how much there is to love at the market. Through eighteen lively poems in a variety of formats, and gorgeous illustrations from Amy Huntington, the farmers’ market experience comes alive! The only thing missing is the crunch of a fresh, juicy apple!

 

JSW: Hi Michelle! Since today is the first day of spring, let’s start our conversation with some ice breaker questions. (Ha! See what I did there?!) If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be and why?

MS: I’d definitely move into Toad’s cottage in Frog and Toad are Friends.  Arnold Lobel is my all-time favorite author-illustrator. His drawings are so cozy and nostalgic. I’d cuddle up by Toad’s fireplace with a cup of tea, a plate of cookies, and a good book.

JSW: I’d happily join you there for tea! Speaking of cuddling, in your book, there are a lot of pets. Can you tell us about any pets you had growing up.

MS: I was thrilled that Amy Huntington included dogs in her drawings because I’ve always had dogs as pets. My first dog ever was a big ol’ mutt named Sam. Sam was one bad dog. He loved jailbreaking whenever possible and helping himself to T-bone steaks defrosting on the counter.  Sam drove my mom crazy, but we loved that naughty pup.

JSW: Ah! They’re the illustrator’s creative vision! Cool! The first line of your book places us immediately in your story’s market. What’s your favorite first line of a book? (Any genre.)

MS: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”  Can’t you just picture poor Winnie-the-Pooh contentedly taking his licks, happy to be in the hands of his boy? The quintessential example of loyalty and love. 

JSW: Beautiful. For our last ice breaker question, if you could have written any other published picture book, which one would you choose?

MS: The Lorax.  Not just because Dr. Seuss was brilliant. The Lorax was one of the first picture books to bring eco-consciousness to children and empower them to “speak for the trees.”  It strikes the perfect balance between entertainment and environmental awareness, something I strive to do in my own books.

JSW: Thanks for letting us get to know you a little better, Michelle! Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your book. Can you tell us a bit about how you began writing poetry?

MS: Growing up, my brother and I would play for hours on the swings in our yard. As we swung back and forth, back and forth, we’d make up silly songs to the rhythm of our motion. I think this is where I developed my sense of cadence.  In high school and college, my poetry turned serious and angst-filled, as I thought “legitimate” poetry should.  When I had my own children, I returned to the world of nursery rhymes and lullabies and rediscovered the playful heart of poetry. I’ve been having fun playing ever since!

JSW: Your book reminds me a lot of one of our family’s favorites, FIRST FOOD FIGHT THIS FALL by Marilyn Singer. In both books, your poetry tells the story and includes a full story arc — both in the individual poems, as well as the compilation of poems that forms the book. That seems so hard to me! Can you talk about how you tackled that challenge?

MS: I’m beaming because you included me and Marilyn Singer in the same sentence. She is one of my poetry heroes! Her word acrobatics leave me breathless.  Let me catch my breath and try to answer your question.

I tend to approach every poem I write as a micro-story, each with its own introduction, exposition, and (hopefully) surprise twist at the end. Even something as simple as haiku naturally falls into these three beats in my mind.  So, to me, finding the arc within a poem is easy.

Finding the story arc across a poetry collection?  Now that’s more of a challenge.  When I started writing Fresh-Picked Poetry, I envisioned a collection that celebrated an entire year at a farmers’ market.  I wrote haiku about spring asparagus, list poems about early summer strawberries, free verse about colorful Autumn flowers, dialogue poems about winter squash. Besides moving through the year seasonally, the collection didn’t have much of an arc. My brilliant editor at Charlesbridge, Karen Boss, suggested I narrow the focus to one summer day at the market. She challenged me to tell the story of a child visiting a summer market and discovering its wonders.  This meant cutting almost half of the poems I’d written and coming up with new ones. I’ll admit it was hard parting with my asparagus and strawberries, but in the end, the collection tells a much better story.

JSW: Wow! That’s incredible. Now I need to catch MY breath!

For our last question, will you share what you hope kids experience, feel, or learn from reading your book?

MS: I hope Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Market envelops kids in a full sensory experience, engaging them in the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and especially tastes of a farmers’ market.  Along with a taste for fresh, local produce, I hope the collection whets readers’ appetites for poetry.  After all, words are delicious!

JSW: As you have just shown, indeed they are!

Thank you and congratulations again on your debut picture book, Michelle! It’s a delight!

Michelle 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.  Her first picture book, Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge) debuts in March 2017. Michelle 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. Learn more about Michelle at www.michelleschaub.com or on Facebook.

You can buy Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market on Amazon 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. 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, Oct. 17, 2017). Visit Julie online at www.juliesegalwalters.com or on Facebook, Twitter @j_s_dub, or Instagram @juliesegalwalters.

You can buy signed copies of THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK here, or on Amazon here!

 

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!

A Two Debut Interview – Camille Andros

One of biggest perks of membership in Picture the Books has been getting to know one another. Bonding with fellow picture book authors and illustrators has been so much fun – and may be one of the few things keeping us all sane as our debut book release dates approach!

We want to share the fun with all of you, so we’re starting a series of Two Debut Interviews in which team members interview one another. For our first in the series, Anna Forrester chats with Camille Andros.

Camille Andros’s debut, CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS Charlotte the ScientistSQUISHED, releases next week on March 14 (illustrated by Brianne Farley; HMHKids/Clarion). Charlotte is a serious scientist who solves important problems using the scientific method. In CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED she tries to solve the problem of not having enough space to conduct her experiments and being squished by her many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all). This funny, satisfying story is a playful introduction to the scientific method and perfect for sparking an interest in STEM subjects.

AF: I can’t wait to talk about CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED — but for starters, how about some quick ice breaker questions… If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be – and why?

CA: THE LITTLE HOUSE by Virginia Lee Burton. I love the idea of living simply out in the country where it is peaceful and quiet….but I think I’d like to keep a penthouse in NYC too;)

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

CA: Hmmm, maybe some cool ambiguous initials with a famous scientific sounding last name…

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

CA: This is hard. There are so many wonderful picture books. THE LITTLE HOUSE would be at the top of the list. It’s the book that made me want to write my own.

AF: How many siblings do you have and where do you fall in the birth order – and did it matter?

CA: I am the oldest of seven kids. I think Charlotte is a bit of an autobiography in that sense 😉

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

CA: No pets, but when I was eight years old I did catch and keep a tarantula in a big mason jar from the vacant lot next door to my house, but when my dad had to go out of town on business, my mom made me get rid of it.

AF: And… what’s the funnest or funniest job you’ve had, besides author/illustrator?

CA: I once scrubbed cheese vats at a dairy when I was in college.

AF: You had a brush with arachnology in the form of that tarantula, and with microbiology in the form of cheese cultures. But that happened a long time ago! How did you get the idea for a book about the scientific method?

CA: The idea evolved over time and many revisions, but I always loved the idea of showing a kid (or bunny 😉 who loves science and makes it look fun and interesting. I want the kids who read CHARLOTTE to be able to see themselves as scientists and know that being a scientist can look like a lot of different things.

AF: On your website you mention that you were one of seven kids and now have six of your own! You probably don’t have a re-purposed, carrot-like rocket ship writing studio in YOUR back yard — how DO you find the space and time to write?

CA: I sneak it in when I can. For a long time it meant lots of early mornings and late nights and that still happens too, but now almost all the kids are in school and my youngest is in preschool for half days now, so I try and be as productive as I can during those short preschool hours.

AF: Brianne Farley’s illustrations for CHARLOTTE do such a great job of keeping Charlotte’s scientific work warm and homey. What grabbed you most when you first saw the illustrations? 

CA: Brianne did an incredible job bringing Charlotte and her huge bunny family to life. I love all the little details she adds like the portraits of famous scientists on the walls. The end papers are amazing and filled with such fun details  – I can stare at those for a LONG time -and I love how each bunny in the family has a distinct personality that plays out through the book.

AF: It’s a delightful book, Camille – and is sure to inspire budding scientists of both the human and bunny variety. Congratulations!

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! 

Camille Andros HeadshotCamille Andros loves asking questions and won first place in the school science fair when she was in Kindergarten. She lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with her husband and six children who know a little something about being squished. Visit Camille online at www.camilleandros.com on Twitter @camdros, and Instagram @camilleandros.

Pre-order CHARLOTTE here! 

Anna Forrester’s debut, BAT COUNT, illustrated by Susan Detwiler (Arbordale) released in February 2017. BAT COUNT features bats, citizen science and Jojo — another STEM-savvy girl.

Dedicated to Dedications

by Peter McCleery

For an author, choosing your dedication is one of the most satisfying milestones of being published. It’s the moment when you get to thank that special someone who helped make it all possible. And for a first time author it’s even more special. You’ll never have a first dedication ever again.

Have you ever wondered about the stories behind the dedications in your favorite books? In today’s post, a few Picture the Books authors share their stories about who they chose and why.

bunnys-book-club-cover

Annie Silvestro’s book BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, illustrated by Tatiana Mai-Wyss, will be released by Doubleday Books for Young Readers on February 7th.

Annie dedicated her book to three people!

annie-dedication

Bunny loves books, so I dedicated the story to my husband, Joe, who collects art books and built a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf to contain them. 

Also, to our son Sam, who sets new records for books checked out each time we go to the library, and who is never, ever, without one.

And finally, to our son Charlie, another avid book-lover who especially adores being read to while cuddling (which I also adore).

I love these three bookworms most in the world! They help, encourage, and inspire me in countless ways every day. I will be forever grateful!
pax-and-blue-cover

PAX AND BLUE is Lori Richmond’s debut as both author and illustrator. It releases on February 7th from Paulpax-and-blue-dedicationa Wiseman Books/S&S.

Her dedication story involves some serious crying in public.

When I received the email from my editor that she needed my dedication for PAX AND BLUE, I was spending the hour before a parent-teacher conference working in the café at Whole Foods, a supermarket near my sons’ school. I thought about how I could possibly express what I wanted to say to my boys in just a line or two of text, and how incredibly special it was that my first book would be for them. Soon, I had full-on tears rolling down my cheeks, I was blowing my nose, my eyes wepax-and-blue-picre turning all red and puffy… total mess. I got some serious side-eye from the woman sitting next to me, who was just trying to enjoy her morning coffee and muffin in peace.

 

 

 

fresh-picked-cover

Michelle Schaub’s debut, FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET, illustrated by Amy Huntington, is being published on March 14th by Charlesbridge.

Her dedication story sounds delicious.

fresh-picked-dedicationI have been exploring farmers’ markets with my three children since I was pushing them from vendor to vendor in strollers. (My youngest is now 14!) Many of the poems in Fresh-Picked were inspired by adventures I’ve had with my children at various markets around the country, so dedicating the book to them was a natural choice.

 

bob-and-joss-cover

Peter McCleery’s first book, BOB AND JOSS GET LOST!, illustrated by Vin Vogel, releases February 28th  from HarperCollins.

bob-and-joss-dedication

His dedication is, um, well, we’ll let him explain.

I dedicated this book to my wife Stephanie. No, she is not a marmot. “Nice marmot” is a line from the movie The Big Lebowski which we watched on our first date. My wife is the reason I am able to write at all. She supports me in countless ways, but mostly by never mentioning how annoying it is to be married to someone who writes children’s books. She doesn’t complain about the lack of income, the hours spent away from family, or how I relentlessly talk about children’s books. She just lets me do it. How awesome is that?

cowbell-cover

Heather Preusser’s debut picture book, A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS, illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen, releases on March 15th by Sleeping Bear Press.

Heather’s dedication is a behind-the-scenes look at how she was inspired.

I’m dedicating this book to my husband, Jan, and my sister-in-law, Wiebke. Wiebke’s adventures on a Swiss dairy farm inspired my story. She too encountered a stubborn cow who, similar to Elfi, refused to parade to the high meadows when her big, booming bell was traded for a tiny one that merely tinkled.

room-3-cover

Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan’s first picture book, MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3, illustrated by Grace Zong, is being by published by Peachtree on April 1.

Gretchen’s dedication is what dedications are all about. A touching tribute to someone special.

“To Susan Champion, who left us all too soon”

The impact of teachers leaving a class or school can shake a child’s world. I wrote my debut picture book MRS. MCBEE LEAVES ROOM 3 when my school district was experiencing growing pains with the impending opening of a new school, and children and teachers alike were uncertain where they would end up in the fall. At the same time, a dear friend and fellow teacher had already said good-bye to her class. She was losing her final battle with breast cancer. Telling Susan that I was dedicating my first book to her was the last gift I gave her. 

We hope you enjoyed getting to know the very special stories behind these dedications. Check out our BOOKS and CREATORS pages for even more insider information on 2017 debut picture books. And don’t forget to follow us here and on Twitter and IG @picturethebooks! We’ll be sharing lots of excitement all year long.

Picture the Books Launch Week Giveaway

 

THE RAFFLECOPTER IS NOW CLOSED! THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!

Prize winners will be announced soon. 

We are so thrilled to be launching Picture the Books site, and we want to spread the excitement and anticipation we feel when we think about our upcoming picture books. It’s a special time for all of us, and we’ve got some special gifts for all of you!

Please, take a few minutes to explore the Picture the Books site, to follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and to get to know our amazing members and their books. If you’re a teacher, librarian, or bookseller, we’d love your thoughts on the resources you are most likely to use, so we can support your work with the people who matter most – the readers!

And to thank you for taking the time to get to know us, we’ve got some amazing prizes.

Please complete the Rafflecopter  to enter. You could win a Skype visit with one of our fabulous authors or illustrators, signed art from an upcoming picture book, or the grand prize: a year of signed debut picture books!*

Prizes include:

30 min Skype visits with: Chana Stiefel, Emma Otheguy, Carter Higgins, Julie Segal-Walters, Katey Howes, Anna Forrester, Lori Richmond, Patricia Toht, Joy Keller

Signed art from Erica Sirotich’s Found Dogs

A year* of signed debut picture books from Picture the Books members.

*Due to the unpredictability of the publishing industry, books may not arrive one per calendar month, but winner is guaranteed a minimum of twelve signed books between February 2017 and February 2018.