Friday, April 30, 2010

Following Monday's post, I've been enjoying a lively discussion on the topic of who wields the most influence over the purchase of children's books -- the child or the adult?

Here's my take on the subject. Do adults lean toward books that stir warm childhood memories? Yes! Are children influenced by books with popular media tie-ins? Sure!

However, in my experience as a library media specialist and literacy advocate, I see quite an astute audience out there in the market place. I meet with hundreds of children every week. The vast majority are looking for quality literature and their parents are pretty savvy about new titles and authors. Parents usually want to provide the best reading material available and communicate with their children and literacy professionals like myself at school and public libraries as well as teachers to find material. In addition, I certainly wouldn't underestimate the impact of book reviews by the knowledgeable children's book bloggers in the Kidlitosphere. And there are Amazon. com reviews for that matter. The librarians I know make liberal use of the numerous professional reviews in Kirkus, Horn Book, School Library Journal, etc. in our quest for the best.

Last and certainly not least...word of mouth is always at work to elevate quality work or eliminate the inferior.

I see the child/adult issue as more of a collaboration than a contest. I've observed parents and children at countless book fairs and other book-buying venues. I see parents who are eager to introduce their favorite authors and stories to their children. And at the same time, most parents are not only willing, but eager to consider their child's suggestions with regard to new titles and authors and most often draw the line at purchasing based on the appropriateness of the subject matter and the quality of the writing. Best's a win/win for both.

Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted today by Great Kid Books. As a Mom to several canines and Foster Mom to a score more, I'm offering up "Stanza," a picture book in rhyme --written by Jill Esbaum and illustrated by Jack E. Davis. Stanza and his two brothers spend their nights harassing city folks, but once his siblings are asleep, Stanza secretly indulges his poetic side. Of course his secret is found out, but the turmoil over his double-life is eventually resolved and his bullying brothers, Fresco and Dirge discover their own artistic talents.

Friday's Famous First: Can you name the title and author of this children's book? "On the banks of the river Nagara, where the long-necked cormorants fish at night, there once lived a poor widow and her son."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's Writer's Wednesday and today I'm answering a frequently asked question about picture book illustration. I'm ready to submit my story to a major publisher. Do I need to send artwork with my picture book manuscript?

In a word: No. If your manuscript is accepted by the publisher, it will be your editor's responsibility to match your text with an illustrator. You can trust your editor on this.

Remember, the editor's goal is to produce the most successful book possible. The publishing house will want to use an illustrator they are familiar with -- probably someone they've worked with before who understands the process, deadlines, production values, etc.

It is your job as a writer to create a story that is illustratable. Before you declare your story finished, break the text down using a picture book dummy. A finished picture book is 32 pages long, and a dummy will allow you to visualize the possible ways your story could breakdown for illustrations. You won't submit a dummy to the publisher, but the readers or editors who look at your story usually have a keen eye for the way a story does or does not fit the picture book format.

Does the story contain enough active elements to make the illustrations interesting? Look at your writing. How much thinking, talking and action appears in the pages? Is the story active? or passive? It is your words alone that must inspire an illustrator to "see" your story and want to take on the project.

You will not direct the artist. Although, if there is some sort of visual joke where the illustration is providing story elements that are not in the text you can make a note of that in your submission. One of my favorite examples of this dichotomy is Caldecott Medal Book, "Officer Buckle and Gloria,"by Peggy Rathmann. Officer Buckle visits schools to give safety tips and is a huge hit, but isn't aware that his popularity is owed to his police dog, Gloria, who is acting out the "tips" for his audience behind him on the stage.

Your illustrator is selected not only for their artistic talents, but also for their imagination and visual storytelling abilities. You want to provide them with great material on which to use those skills. Look at a variety of picture books and study the way the text and pictures complement each other. Notice the single and double-page spreads.

You'll find numerous examples of picture book dummys on line. Most of the articles are aimed at illustrators, but the samples will help you understand where the story text fits into the book along with copyright, title, acknowledgement pages, etc. Use that information to create your own dummy layout to use. As a writer, you want to assign text to the appropriate pages and then ask yourself: "What's the picture?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do you have a book to sell? As a library media specialist, I'm part of your market...along with thousands of others in schools all over the country and across the world.

Ever wondered how books are selected for a school library book collection? Today, I'm introducing a new series on how school library collections are developed.

Before I even consider the actual books, I have two major restrictions that come into play: budget and space. In this time of cut-backs, I must make every dollar count which basically means I want library books to serve multiple purposes. Does that Picture Book that I'd love to read to classes also fill a niche in the curriculum? Just the fact that a book is currently popular is almost never reason enough for a purchase. Particularly when I factor in my second restriction which is shelf space. Library shelf space is a valuable commodity and I have to determine if a book deserves a share.

How I make those determinations will be the topic of future posts.

Meanwhile, today's post at Editorial Anonymous titled: Children vs Adults is well worth reading. The article discusses the balance in appealing to children who are the audience, and adults who hold the purse-strings. Publishers must weigh those two points of view when considering projects.

Here's the answer to Friday's Famous First: "Fingers trembling, eyes on the man at the cash register, Mongoose snatched the Milky Way bar and stuck it in his coat pocket." The Library Card by Newbery Award winner, Jerry Spinelli.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted today at Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day.

In honor of Earth Day, I'll offer the following poetry books and/or collections:

Friday's Famous First: Can you name the title and author of this first line?

"Fingers trembling, eyes on the man at the cash register, Mongoose snatched the Milky Way bar and stuck it in his coat pocket."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's Writer's Wednesday

I'm putting the final (I hope) polish on a novel. I'm always amazed at how much every book teaches me. Even as I work on the last chapter I'm finding ways to tweak the characters even a bit more.

If you are struggling with your character development then you should take a careful look at two great posts at Pen and Ink: Sunday, April 18th post, Bad Things Happen to Good People, and today's post, To Torture or Not to Torture: Has Your Main Character Suffered Enough?

Monday, April 19, 2010

For my librarian friends -- Here are two of my favorite library-themed books.

My students always find it funny, but not surprising that one of my favorites is titled Book! Book! Book! by Debroah Bruss with illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke.

And because not every library is found within walls I love to share: My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs.

Here is the answer to Friday's Famous First: "In SPRING,/ Red sings/ from treetops:/ cheer-cheer-cheer,/ each note dropping/ like a cherry/ into my ear." Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors written by Joyce Sidman, Illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski. For all you illustrators out there you will find an interview of Pamela at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring is, without a doubt, one of my favorite times of year. My office overlooks the garden and I'm coaxed outside several times a day by the promise of growing things. Something of that burgeoning energy seeps into my bones and makes me want to be doing and writing. It's a good thing! And something I like to share with my students.

Here are some lovely and lively collections of Springtime poetry.
Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted by Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Don't miss it.

Friday's Famous First: Can you identify the title and author of this first line?
In SPRING,/ Red sings/ from treetops:/ cheer-cheer-cheer,/ each note dropping/like a cherry/into my ear.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It's Writers Wednesday...

And I've been hearing a lot of questions from new and/or unpublished writers on the topic of self-publishing. The pros and cons of going the self-publishing route need to be carefully considered before a decision is made. I urge writers to begin by honestly answering a couple of questions:
  • Why are you writing?
  • What outcome do you expect from having a book in print?

Understanding your motives and clarifying your goals will go a long way to helping you make a decision that will work for you. Then do your homework.

To help you get started, you'll find this post, "If You Are Considering Self-Publishing" by Bev Cooke a worthwhile read. The post is at Harold D. Underdown's blog, "Information About Writing, Illustrating and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon.

For more on the topic, be sure to read the guest post by Stephanie Gunning, former senior editor at Bantam-Doubleday-Dell titled: "Is Self-Publishing an Impediment to Landing a Publishing Contract?"at The Savvy Book Marketer.

Monday, April 12, 2010

If you have a teen or tween science-fiction fan in the house, you should check out Jen Robinson's Book Page for her comprehensive review of The Web of Titan: A Galahad Book. It is the second in the series by Dom Testa which began with The Comet's Curse.

I touched upon linking poetry and the science of growing things in my previous post and low and behold, I'm treated to a wonderful book, courtesy of Anastasia Suen's Blog - Picture Book of the Day. She has a thoughtful review of Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature written by Sarah C. Campbell plus some great lesson ideas for the classroom.

Here is the answer to Friday's Famous First: "It was hot." Dreams by Caldecott winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I just came in from walking in my garden. Blackberries and blueberries are in flower, promising delicious treats to come. The vegetables are reaching eagerly for the sun with shiny green leaves still damp with the morning dew. It put me in mind of some garden-themed children's books and what with this being National Poetry Month, I'll offer these suggestions:

For a Spring Poetry Unit: Busy in the Garden written by George Shannon, pictures by Sam Williams. This fun collection of lively poetry and riddles in a picture book format will delight children. Adults will enjoy the jokes and puns that Shannon has incorporated into his work.

Need a science/literature crossover book? I Heard It from Alice Zucchini: poems about the Garden written by Juanita Havill, pictures by Christine Davenier. This collection of twenty seasonal poems gives a smart nod to the science of growing things in some of the works and relishes whimsy in others.

Just for the nonsense of it all. Slugs in Love written by Susan Pearson, pictures by Kevin O'Malley. No star-crossed lovers in a Shakespeare tragedy here, despite that fact that it seems never the twain shall meet. Marylou and Herbie leave poetic love notes to each other in slime all over the garden, but continue to miss each other until one fateful day in the tomato patch.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted at Papertigers blog.

Friday's Famous First: Can you identify the title and author of this first line? "It was hot."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's Writer's Wednesday -- here some Helpful Writing Tips.

Children's magazines are great places to be published. You'll find up-to-date information on many of the best-known periodicals in the April 1st post titled Magazine Submissions at Pen and Ink. Susan Berger provides a brief summary for all of you with a poem, article, etc. that's looking for a home.

At Tales from the Rushmore Kid, the blog of Tina Nichols Coury, agent Mark McVeigh shared a Revision Tip of the Day. You can find more of Mark's wisdom at The McVeigh Agency Blog.

Writers are always urged to know the Children's Book Market. What better place to find information then at the Publisher's Weekly post on Children's Bestsellers 2009.

While we are on the subject of marketing, every writer must be prepared to get out there and talk to the public. For writers of children's books, that can often mean school visits. There is a great March 19th post on the topic by Jacqueline Vick titled The Challenges of Putting on a Children's Literacy Presentation at Writers in Residence.

Monday, April 5, 2010

In honor of National Poetry Month, I put together a new list of poetry books I'd like to acquire. Here are a couple of my selections:

  • African Acrostics: a word in edgewise written by Avis Harley, photographs by Deborah Noyes. This book is a collection of brilliant color photographs paired with short acrostic poems. Readers in grades 4-7 will enjoy the poetry and the word games incorporated into the verses as they decode the messages cleverly tucked into first, last or diagonal letters in the lines.
  • All the World by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee is a delightful read-aloud for the kindergarten and 1st graders with each poem inviting the readers to explore their world.

Here is the answer to Friday's Famous First: "In the days when farmers worked with ox and sled and cut the dark with lantern light, there lived a boy who loved snow more than anything in the world." Caldecott Medal Book: Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Spring has Sprung and the Poets are in bloom!

Poetry Friday Roundup is being hosted this week by Kate Coombs at Book Aunt.

While we're on the subject of Poetry, let me remind you to check out Thirty Poets, Thirty Days at GottaBook where you will find previously unpublished poetry by your favorite poets.

And there's The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Fridays Famous First: Can you identify the title and author for this first line?
"In the days when farmers worked with ox and sled and cut the dark with lantern light, there lived a boy who loved snow more than anything in the world."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It's Writer's Wednesday. Yes, I know the post says Thursday, but my system went down and my post was delayed.

Get your pencils sharpened...get your mouse in motion because it's coming...2010 National Picture Book Writing Week. Check out the fun at Paula Yoo. And as a bonus, beginning April 1st, she will be inspiring picture book writers with daily posts. Don't miss it!

I just finished reviewing a picture book manuscript for a fellow writer. If you don't have someone to offer suggestions on your work, you can find help at SCBWI Critique Connections.'ll find some thought-provoking tips at Ten Rules for Writing Fiction: Part One and Part Two.

The Gingerbread Cowboy Book Trailer