Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Picture Book Debut: Interview with Sarah Hoppe and Critique Give Away

By Janie Reinart

Grab your flip-flops and head for the beach. You never know what treasures you will find.
Sarah Hoppe's debut picture book tells us about Lottie as she makes an unusual discovery while beach-combing one day. 

Lottie's found a pup, but it’s not your ordinary pup. Readers are kept guessing throughout this beautifully illustrated story. Children learn about nature’s different kinds of pups along the way.

Let me introduce you to our multi-talented guest, Sarah.

GoOutsidePhotography by Sarah Hoppe
Not only is Sarah an author, but a wonderful photographer who captures the beauty of nature from the smallest slugs to the sparkliest sunsets. 

One of Sarah's greatest desires is to put good words out into the world as picture books and share the joy, magic, and importance of stories.  

Coming June 2019!  

Who Will? Will You? by Sarah Hoppe
To celebrate, Sarah's new picture book, she is giving away a picture book critique. (800 words maximum.) Be sure to sign up using the Rafflecopter at the end of the article.

GoOutsidePhotography by Sarah Hoppe

And now for the interview.

Who is your agent? 

Sarah: I am currently seeking an agent.

How did you get the idea for your story? 

Sarah: My older son loves to read non-fiction.  He always has a huge stack of animal books from the library by his bed. One day we were talking about seal pups and an idea sprang into my head.  There are so many young animals referred to as pups, there was certainly a story there.

What is your favorite part of the story?  

Sarah: I loved writing the pup reveal, but I also adore the faces of the characters as they investigate Lottie’s wagon.  The illustrator, Milanka Reardon, did an amazing job.

How long did it take to write? Get to a publisher? 

Sarah: The story itself didn’t take a long time, maybe 2-3 months of working on it off and on.  The back matter took much longer.  I wanted the back matter to be fun, informational and, most importantly, correct.  I did a lot of research and spent serious time figuring out the best way to convey the information. 

It took about 6 months to find a publisher, but I feel I was lucky in that regard.  I am a member of Julie Hedlund’s 12x12 Picture Book Challenge.  If you are a picture book author, this is an amazing resource for you!  I had the opportunity to submit a manuscript to Blue Whale Press through 12x12.  Alayne Christian at Blue Whale has been amazing, it’s been a fantastic journey.

What is your writing routine?  

Sarah: After I get my kids to school, I have a couple of hours to work.  I divide this time between writing, photography, volunteering at the kids’ school, and household chores.  I write first, while I’m freshest, and while there’s still plenty of time.  I tend to be less focused later in the day.

What is your favorite writing craft book?  

Sarah: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I know it’s not strictly a writing craft book, but it is my favorite.  Big Magic is so chock full of optimism, assurance, and magic that I feel invincible after reading it.

Sarah's work area.

What inspires you to write? 

Sarah: I try to always be open to inspiration, although I know that’s not always the case.  I first wanted to write picture books when I read them with my kids.  That feeling you get, when the words and pictures create something so special it gives you shivers and moves you to tears – I thought it would be the coolest thing if I could help create that experience for someone else.  But, more practically, I get ideas from nature and kids. There’s always something going on there!

What are you working on now?  

Sarah: A couple of picture books about birds.

Words of advice for writers. 

Sarah: Just keep chugging along, you’ll get there.

Sarah Hoppe
Be sure to check this summer to get your copy of Who Will? Will You?  

You can visit Sarah at and follow her on Twitter @Sarahlhoppe

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Crafty Story Times ~ by Christy Mihaly

Before my picture book came out last fall, I assumed that a writer's job description consisted more or less entirely of ... writing. 
This is me, not writing.
I was wrong.
In the months leading up to the release of Hey, Hey, Hay!, I embarked on a round of unfamiliar activities: designing bookmarks, arranging blog tours, setting up signings and school visits. Reading my book aloud to the mirror. 

"I'm reading in a frigid hay barn,
and now I need a CRAFT?"
I can do this, I told myself.
But then they said: you need crafts. 

Yes, friends. Crafts and other book-related activities are a popular element of book readings for kids--whether you're reading your own book or a favorite from the library shelves.  Librarians and educators know this. But many writers find the craft thing a little daunting. 

I have evolved from craft-skeptic to craft fan. I've created different crafts for bookstore readings, story times, classroom events, and a book festival, and learned a lot along the way. So I thought I'd share some tips and photos from my travels and from some picture-book-creator friends. 

Why crafts? 

This energetic class shows off
their drawings, or "readers' responses,"
to my reading

  • Engagement: Kids get antsy when you ask them to sit and listen. You already know this. But if you haven't experienced a roomful of kids wiggling as you attempt to read to them, you may not fully appreciate it. I experimented with songs, participatory readings, etc. These are good. But, put a crayon in a kid's hand, and watch what happens.
  • Fun: Kids like to create things. And you want them to have fun! One of my HAY audience favorites was a simple craft in which kids cut out tractor wheels and fastened them onto a paper tractor, then colored in the background.
    Displaying a completed
    craft after a reading
  • Senses: Crafts use multiple senses, and the smells and feels help engage your audience. (One  feature of my HAY readings was a "sniff box" full of hay--kids loved smelling the hay.) 
    Jen Betton's Hedgehog Hat to go with
    Hedgehog Needs a Hug
  • Skills: Crafting helps teach motor skills, problem-solving skills, and social skills. What's not to like?
  • Souvenirs: A craft gives listeners a souvenir to take home and share. 

Tips for Crafts:

Sock Puppet Kipling for Love Mama
  • Book Link: Link your craft to your story. Kids loved the tractors in my book, so I went with tractor crafts. Author-Illustrator Jeanette Bradley created an adorable sock puppet craft to go with Love, Mama, her picture book about a little penguin whose mama goes away on a trip. Directions and a description are here
    A Monster Drawing,
    for Maximillian Villainous
  • Keep it Simple. Make it easy to explain. Margaret Greanias provided a blank frame on a coloring sheet for readings of Maximillian Villainous, her picture book about a young monster attempting to fit in. This was brilliant for the preschool set. Kids could invent and draw their own monsters--with googly eyes! Similarly, for Jen Betton's book, Hedgehog Needs a Hug, kids could cut out a hedgehog hat and color it in (photo above). See more hedgehog crafts and activities here.
  • Allow room for creativity. Assure kids that there's no one right way to do it. Jessie Oliveros created a drawing project to go with her lovely picture book, The Remember Balloons. Children could draw their own memories.
  • Make it fun, and maybe educational. Focus first on the fun. But if your craft or activity teaches something related to your book, that's a bonus. Author Hannah Holt's picture book for older readers, The Diamond and the Boy, describes how diamonds are created. She brought a crystal-growing activity to her school visits, and left it in the classroom so the students could watch the crystals grow.
Ingredients for Crystal Growing, an activity to go with
Hannah Holt's The Diamond and the Boy
Hannah Holt grew crystals on eggshells

💥Note that some books, especially those for older children, may be less conducive to crafts. In those cases, consider an art activity, allowing your audience free rein to draw or paint reactions to your reading. Or, try a readers' theater or skit or song or science experiment or other interactive activity. 

Are you a writer, educator, or librarian with craft ideas? Please share them in the comments! Thanks to all.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

What's New at the Library?

By Leslie Colin Tribble

It's time once again, for the latest review of new books in the Children's Library of the Park County Library in Cody, Wyoming. I don't know what winter has been like in your neck of the woods, but out here in the sagebrush, it's been downright polar, despite what the calendar says. So grab a steamy cup of tea and gather around for a look at a few new picture books.

Quiet by Tomie dePaola

Quiet is a wonderful book about a grandfather and his grandchildren taking a moment to be still and quiet. Tomie carefully sets the tone of a busy world as the group watches birds, dragonflies, the family dog and a frog engage in their busy animal lives. It's grandfather who suggests the group sit down on a bench for a rest and to be quiet. The final page states, "To be quiet and still is a special thing." This is a wonderful book to address the need for a break from the frantic pace of modern life. Adults and children need moments to retreat from everything that makes our lives busy - technology, calendars, cars, and even work. We need to remember it's when we are quiet that we can see and truly think. That's a lasting gift we can give children.

Hungry Bunny by Claudia Rueda

I enjoyed this book, because yes, it has a cute bunny, but also because it the interactive nature of the text. I'm not a real fan of books that ask the reader to do something, but in this title it made a lot of sense and seemed fun. Bunny is hungry but can't quite reach the apples so he asks the reader to shake, blow, and tilt the book to help him get the apples and take them home. There's a bright red ribbon in the book that is also a prop to help the bunny reach the apples and cross a chasm. Ingenious! The illustrations are simple and in shades of gold, brown and black with some red for a splash of color. Young children will enjoy interacting with Hungry Bunny.

The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson; illustrated by Jonathan Bean

Following on the apple theme is this engaging book with its cumulative text. The book starts with an apple pie baked by Papa (I appreciate that Mama didn't have to bake this pie), and works backwards from the roots, rain, clouds, sky and sun that make the pie possible. This cumulative text quietly reinforces the inter-relatedness of the natural world. With another nod to Hungry Bunny, this book is also in shades of brown, black and gold with only the apples providing color. The illustrations are deceptively complex, so there's plenty to look for on each page. There are also three wordless spreads which work to move to story along. Hungry Bunny and The Apple Pie that Papa Baked would be fun books to read together.

Where is My Balloon? by Ariel Bernstein; illustrated by Scott Magoon

Owl and Monkey are very happy. Owl has a wonderful red balloon and Monkey has a sock with a perfectly shaped hole. What happens when Owl asks Monkey to hold his balloon is hysterical. I adored the expressions on the faces of these characters who are oh so human. Every child can relate to both Owl and Monkey when it comes to breaking someone else's toy. The text is very simple, but overflowing with great adjectives. The illustrations contain little background putting Owl and Monkey right in the center of the action. This keeps the reader focused on the interaction between our two characters. What a fun read, with a bonus that everyone can tell their own Owl and Monkey story afterward.

Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer; illustrated by Adam Schaefer

From a tiny acorn comes a wonderful forest. This is another cumulative text, starting with because of an acorn, a tree grows. The story pulls in other facets of the forest from flowers, to seeds, to chipmunks, to hawks, and back to acorns emphasizing the web of life within the forest. There is backmatter about ecosystems and a small section on what can you do to help forests. I think this book would make a great first look at conservation for very young children. Start them young!

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! by Georgia Heard and Aaron DeWitt

Greetings - we have a winner of this new title - Lynne-Marie.
Thank you everyone, for participating!
Introducing Georgia Heard's BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT!
with illustrations by Aaron DeWitt
picture book poem collection + giveaway
 * * * *
By JG Annino

I'm chirpy today with news of a community chorus collected in 
Animal Poems for Two or More Voices.

This is an inter-active book that blares, whispers and
cajoles with an invitation to Read Aloud. 
Through the poem pages and beyond, nature notes
in this pitch-perfect picture book
invite us into a wild way of communication, some of which
I didn't know existed. You, your students, family, friends
will be baffled, excited and jubilant about questions raised and 
answers given in this clever approach to sharing creature sounds.
I can especially see this title selected by youth chorus directors,
music teachers & and youth musical theater directors, beyond
the family, library and school market.

Poems mentioned here are c.2019 by Georgia Heard

Cricket Arithmetic

Cold pierces evening
crickets crouch in corn stubble-
last chant of the year
chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp

The crickets (channeling Georgia) provide two other poems
and also work on counting (in back-of-book nature notes.)
Right whales offer a deep-sea song,  
elephants speak in their own two voices,
from trunk tip, or, their mouths.
So many other creatures (I counted at least 40) also chime in.

Georgia Heard's spare poems provide room for child readers
(or their older companions) to expressively play the parts of
lungs (frogs, toads,)
swim bladder (some fish,)
claw (snapping shrimp)
to attempt to emulate sounds from origins other than mouths.
I knew a little bit about cricket wings, but not as much as this
book joyfully shares, not did I ever guess much about other body parts
that animal language tumbles from.

I like how illustrator Aaron DeWitt's double spreads
evoke a here and now mood in me, employing an uncluttered
digital painting style that is  transportive,
making me feel as if I am in the scene.

I hope you can read BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! soon.
As someone who sometimes writes to pals whatdoyouthink? I melted
at these two ending lines from Georgia Heard's poem, titled

" Bigclaw Snapping Shrimp"



Call me a punster but I will mention that Georgia heard
the sounds in creating these poems and Aaron illustrates with wit.
You will likely read this book several times to select a favorite
voice, sound, or back story of how specific community chorus members
create their communicating ways. I finish the book and want to begin
again, thinking what a marvelous universe this is.
And no, I'm not identifying the wild individuals who are the source
of the three title sounds. You. Will. Be. Surprised.

- COMMENT here by March 15 for a chance to receive my review copy.

Other Georgia Heard illustrated books for children I am fortunate to
already have on my shelves, include 
FALLING DOWN THE PAGE, which is a collection of  list poems 
and also, THE PLACE I KNOW,  poems of comfort for all of us,
especially students, in these troubled times. More recently I have found
Georgia's guide, WRITING TOWARD HOME and also, 
HEART MAPS and eventually expect to share some discoveries in these 
at Bookseedstudio, my blog. 

Aaron DeWitt also created the huggable art for DREAMING OF YOU 
by Poetry Friday's AmyLudwig VanDerwater, so it's time to meet 
Aaron's work if he is new to you.
* * * * 

(Remember to comment & if you don't want to be included in the give away, just say so.)

Bunny selects a winner! Lynne Marie will receive this title. Let us know your postal address.