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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A HALLOWEEN TWO-DEBUT INTERVIEW: Annie Silvestro Talks with Anna Forrester About Her Debut, BAT COUNT

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AS: Anna, congrats on your debut picture book, BAT COUNT! It’s a beautifully told story, jam-packed with interesting facts as well as the fantastic concept of “Citizen Science.” It’s also a big hit in my household! Thank you for answering some of my two-debut interview questions.

AF: My pleasure, Annie!

BAT COUNT seems especially appropriate for this time of year. Even though the actual bat counting takes place in August, Halloween is the time people most associate with bats (and vampires!)

I know, from a marketing perspective, the story’s timing is wonky — October has a complete monopoly on bats!!

Where did you get the idea for BAT COUNT?

My family has an old farm in central Pennsylvania, and a colony of bats lives in its barn. When we heard about white nose syndrome — and that scientists were asking people to track bat colonies – we decided to start a count. Jojo, the narrator, definitely has bits of me and my two daughters in her!

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Tell us a little about what has drawn you to bats and what compelled you to tell this story?

Writing Bat Count and doing events with scientists who work with bats has taught me a ton about them; they are really cool creatures! But the citizen science aspect of the story always felt just as important. I’m a nature-geek, and have this hyper-awareness of the negative impacts that humans are having on the planet. Though any real fixes are going to have to happen at systemic levels, getting involved in citizen science makes me feel a little less helpless. Hopefully Jojo and her story can give kids a sense of hope and agency too.

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

The pond-portal in Joseph Kuefler’s Beyond The Pond leaps to mind. I love what that book captures about how imagination and new experiences can change the way we see the world. Plus: who wouldn’t want to have a day like Ernest D.’s?

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

Jon Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat. That particular unreliable narrator, the perfect page turns, the eyes, the ambiguous ending… I find myself going back to that book over and over again.

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

Our first pet was this snarky black and white cat named Rimsky.  when he was a few years old his tail started drooping, and we discovered he had a degenerative neurological disease that was moving up his spinal cord and would, eventually, paralyze him. To save him, the vet removed half of his tail, and Rimsky ended up with a perky little stump that didn’t match his personality and — it seemed to me — embarrassed him. He was totally long-suffering.

Are you a fan of Halloween? Will you dress up this year? If so, what will your costume be?

I’m not a big dresser-upper, but my family does have a Halloween tradition that gets me to put on a pointy hat and robe: we live in a row house in downtown Philadelphia, on a corner, and we open the gates of our postage-stamp-sized back yard, push the furniture aside, and set up a table full of candles and jars of all sorts of gross things (mostly made of food): cat brains, dog eyeballs, baby fingers… We put a candy basket in the middle of it all and dare trick-or-treaters to stick their hands in one of the jars before they take any candy. The kids totally love it.

And I can’t resist – what is your absolute favorite Halloween candy? (and least favorite?)

SMARTIES. Hands down. Though I wouldn’t turn down a box of MILK DUDS either. And, despite loving coconut, I will never understand the appeal of MOUNDS.

Thank you for sharing your answers with us!

Thanks Annie! It has been great getting to know you and the other debuts at Picture The Books this year!

For Halloween enthusiasts in the NYC area, Anna will be reading and talking about bats at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Ghost and Ghouls festival on Saturday, October 28. It’s a huge event, with great music and activities, and a fantastic line-up of children’s authors!

 

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. She is the author of Bunny’s Book Club, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday), and Mice Skating, illustrated by Teagan White (Sterling). Forthcoming books include The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, illustrated by Paola Zakimi (HarperCollins Fall 2018) and Bunny’s Book Club Goes to School, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Doubleday, Summer 2019). Annie lives with her family by the beach in New Jersey. Visit Annie online at www.anniesilvestro.com or on Twitter and Instagram @anniesilvestro.

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Anna Forrester’s picture book, Bat Count (Arbordale), was released in February 2017 . Anna loves nothing better than to stumble onto a funny idea or a great question, and hold on tight as it leads her through books, her imagination, and unexpected nooks and crannies of the real world. She also loves words and stories, and many of her adventures find their way into the stories she writes. In her other life, she makes landscapes for play. Anna is a Missouri native, and now lives in Philadelphia with her husband, dog, and two daughters.  Visit Anna on line at www.annaforrester.com, or on Twitter @annaforr.

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.

Gina Perry Interviews Debut Author Chana Stiefel about DADDY DEPOT + A DOUBLE-DAD GIVEAWAY!

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Hi, Chana! Congrats on your funny and sweet debut, DADDY DEPOT. We both had Dad themed books debuting this year so it’s a treat to interview you! What were your favorite books as a kid?

I remember loving BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL by Robert McCloskey and ARE YOU MY MOTHER? by P.D. Eastman. Interestingly, these books are about characters who get separated from their parents (and have happy reunions). My debut picture book, DADDY DEPOT, is a little more cynical: it’s about a girl named Lizzie who returns her father to the daddy store. Just for the record, I would never swap my pop!

While this is your first picture book, you are a prolific nonfiction writer. How different was the writing process for DADDY DEPOT from your other books?

Before DADDY DEPOT, I wrote 20+ nonfiction books for the educational market about natural disasters, stinky castles, farm animals, and other kid-friendly topics. Many were work-for- hire projects, with either a flat fee or an advance with royalties. The publishers contacted me as a freelance writer to research and write the books. They had a pretty quick turnaround time of five to eight weeks and they were published within a year. Word counts ranged from 500-5,000. Those books sell mainly to schools and libraries.

DADDY DEPOT is more of a journey—and fulfillment of a dream. It’s my debut picture book and my first published work of fiction. The idea popped into my head as a bedtime story about eight years ago (!). My daughter was upset with her dad and we conjured a story about a girl who returns her father to the daddy store. We laughed a lot about a shopping spree in a store filled with dads. Afterward, I went downstairs and started writing. That began a multi-year process of learning the ropes of picture-book writing. At the time, I knew next-to- NOTHING about the craft, format, and style of PBs even though I loved them and read them to my kids every night. Once I learned the craft and went through dozens of drafts, the journey continued with finding an agent, selling the manuscript to Feiwel & Friends (an imprint of Macmillan), and seeing it through to publication.

I still write both fiction and nonfiction—depending on where my heart and brain take me. (I very rarely take on work-for- hire projects. My new nonfiction books are my own ideas that I pitch.) Writing fiction and nonfiction are very different skills. For example, the research process for nonfiction involves reading lots of books, researching newspaper clips, interviewing people, doing online research, and digging for facts. The research for DADDY DEPOT involved walking up and down the aisles of Home Depot and Costco for inspiration. I love nonfiction because it can illuminate the world in new ways for kids. With fiction, I can have more fun and be free to be goofy and let my imagination run wild.

I think you’ve not only made a funny book, but one that touches on the highs and
lows of the father-daughter relationships. What inspired this story?

Thanks Gina! The story started with the bedtime story mentioned above. But the heart of the book is modeled on my husband—not my dad. My husband Larry is an awesome dad to our four kids. But I wanted to focus on imperfect parenting. As parents, none of us are perfect (well, I know I’m not.). The dad in the book is distracted by football, tells corny jokes, and snores during snuggle time. That’s Larry, Larry, and Larry. He also makes amazing pancakes and does a wicked funky-chicken touchdown dance, also featured in the book. My kids all adore their dad and would probably never return him. (Me, on the other hand…?) Bottom line: “Write what you know.” Base your characters on real-life people in real-life situations but stretch them to the max. (Funny anecdote: When I told my dad that I was writing a book about a girl who returns her father to the daddy store, he said, “What?! My hearing aid isn’t working!” BTW, his hearing is fine.)

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SPOILER ALERT! The Dad party is my favorite spread. Did you request any specific
type of Dad or did you let the illustrator have full reign over the crowd? Also, do you have a favorite?

That’s one of my favorite spreads too. I had written a list of dads from A-Z as an illustrator’s note. I think Andy Snair used that list and more. I don’t have a favorite but I always ask kids which one they would choose. They have a lot of fun pointing out the different dads. By the way, for readers who love GO DOG, GO, the Dad Party is a wink to the Dog Party!

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Working toward a book debut can be a hectic time. Now that you’ve had a chance to share DADDY DEPOT with children, what is one of your favorite moments from a reading?

I loved it when one kid asked, “Did you write THE CAT IN THE HAT?” LOL! At readings, I’ve been having kids dress up as various dads in the book and we act out the story. There’s Rocker Dad, Astro Dad, and Chef Dad. The kids get really into it. I love when kids are uninhibited and let loose. (Well, I’m not their teacher or mom.)

 

 
Chana and Gina are giving away a signed copies of DADDY DEPOT and IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD. Enter for a chance to win both HERE!

 
stiefelchanaframeChana Stiefel is the author of more than 20 nonfiction books for kids about stinky castles, exploding volcanoes, and other wild stuff. Her first picture book, DADDY DEPOT (illustrated by Andy Snair, Feiwel & Friends), debuted in May 2017. ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER MONSTERS IN NATURE will be coming out from National Geographic Kids in 2018. WAKAWAKALOCH, Chana’s semi-autobiographical picture book about a cave girl who wants to change her unpronounceable name, will be coming out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019. Chana is repped by agent John Cusick at Folio Literary. Visit her at www.chanastiefel.com and her blog for authors, www.kidlittakeaways.com, which she writes with her critique partner, Donna Cangelosi. Follow Chana Stiefel on Facebook and Twitter @chanastiefel.

 
perryginaframeGina Perry is an author and illustrator working under the tall pines in New Hampshire. 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 29, 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. Visit her at ginaperry.com or on twitter @ginamarieperry or instagram @ginapineapple.

 

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!

Chana Stiefel interviews Gina Perry and introduces SMALL: A Two Debut Interview

Small

Congrats on your debut as an author/illustrator, Gina! How was this process different from your first illustrated book, IT’S GREAT BEING A DAD, written by Dan Bar-el?

Thank you, Chana. The books are completely different stories and settings. While DAD allowed me to use my imagination, SMALL forced me to work within a somewhat realistic framework. SMALL also focused on one main character’s journey compared to the adventure of DAD’s multi-character cast. SMALL is also a very personal story and while I’ve worked on it for a long time, creating the final art felt new and exciting. I illustrated both books digitally on a Wacom Cintiq with a layer of gouache for added texture.

What were your favorite picture books growing up?

I know this sounds a bit strange but I truly don’t remember reading many picture books as a kid. I was an early reader so I moved on to chapter books very quickly. I cherish my copy of Gyo Fujikawa’s picture book JENNY AND JUPIE. For illustrated books I loved Anne Rockwell’s THE GIRL WITH A DONKEY TAIL, Patricia Coombs’ DORRIE THE WITCH series, and everything AMELIA BEDELIA.

How did you come up with the story for SMALL?

I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room and just started writing what made me as an adult feel small and big. It was very simple, but I felt the spark of a good idea and reworked it from a child’s perspective. I have only recently pinpointed exactly what SMALL is to me. It is my love letter to all the small kids and to finding what our big is in this world.

Do you have formal art training? How about writing?

I have a BFA from Syracuse University. I studied computer graphics and initially worked in the animation field. While a lot of my peers focused on new media electives, I always chose drawing, painting, or printmaking. A few years after graduation I took a children’s book illustration class and knew I had found my direction (and a fine group of friends and critique partners!) I took a wonderful writing class from children’s book author Mark Karlins several years ago. Participating in 12×12 and Storystorm were also immensely helpful.

In SMALL, I especially love the hot dog scenes and the little girl singing at the fountain. What’s your favorite spread?

Oh, those are two of my favorites as well. The singing spread might be my favorite. I love all her big scenes but it warms my heart that she is spreading her joy, through music, to the city. I am also really happy with the spread where she crosses the street and is framed by the window of the waiting car.

SMALL_sing

Are you agented? If so, how did you find your agent?

My agent is Teresa Kietlinski, founder of Bookmark Literary. I feel incredibly blessed to have Teresa as a partner, advocate, and friend. Four years ago I was floundering a bit trying to find the right literary agent. I may have vented publicly about it (in a humorous way!) and a friend and fellow client mentioned me to Teresa. She remembered me from many years ago when she was an art director and received my postcards. She has an amazing memory. Teresa reached out and the rest is history.

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What’s your best advice for budding author/illustrators?

If I’m forced to say just one thing, it would be to keep pushing your work. When you get criticism or revisions, take some time to process your emotional response and really think “Will this make my story better?” It may take longer and far more iterations than you anticipated but it is worth it when you finally hold your book baby! I think the hallmark of a professional is whether or not they can put the project ahead of their ego.

 

 
stiefelchanaframeChana Stiefel is the author of more than 20 nonfiction books for kids about stinky castles, exploding volcanoes, and other wild stuff. Her first picture book, DADDY DEPOT (illustrated by Andy Snair, Feiwel & Friends), debuted in May 2017. ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER MONSTERS IN NATURE will be coming out from National Geographic Kids in 2018. WAKAWAKALOCH, Chana’s semi-autobiographical picture book about a cave girl who wants to change her unpronounceable name, will be coming out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019. Chana is repped by agent John Cusick at Folio Literary. Visit her at www.chanastiefel.com and her blog for authors, www.kidlittakeaways.com, which she writes with her critique partner, Donna Cangelosi. Follow Chana Stiefel on Facebook and Twitter @chanastiefel.

 
perryginaframeGina 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), 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), 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Baking with Mike Malbrough and MARIGOLD: A Two Debut Interview

Lori Richmond and Mike Malbrough skype and bake together in our latest Two Debut Interview featuring Malbrough’s MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE, just out July 18 with Philomel!

 

Mike Marlbrough was a freelance graphic designer, comic book artist, performer and teacher with a career spanning two decades before beginning his career as a picture book author-illustrator. He is an active advocate for the education of young artists, and has received several awards and honors for his work in the community with children and teens. Mike lives in Orange, New Jersey, with his wife, two adventurous kids, and a cat named Agnes who hates him. Follow Mike on Twitter @studiomalbrough.

Marigold

Now Available:
MARIGOLD BAKES A CAKE

 

Lori Richmond is a corporate creative director turned picture book maker. She is the author-illustrator of Pax and Blue, which The New York Times called a “sprightly debut,” and Bunny’s Staycation, coming in 2018. Lori is also the illustrator of A Hop Is Up and several other picture books.

Before her career as an author-illustrator, Lori was a sought-after expert on all things baby and parenting as a contributing editor to leading pregnancy and parenting brand, The Bump. She has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, CNN, and more.

Lori lives and creates in Brooklyn, NY with her design-y husband and two sons, both of whom are named after typefaces.

 

Now Available:
PAX AND BLUE
A School Library Journal Popular Pick
Now Available:
A HOP IS UP
written by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Lori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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