Posted in Graphic Novels, Memoir, Nonfiction, So Many Good Books

almost American Girl

almost American Girl (Balzer + Bray, 2020) by Robin Ha is a fascinating graphic memoir of one girl’s life. I learned a lot about Korean culture and had such empathy for Chuna.

Chuna and her mother often travel. This time they’re going to Alabama which Chuna hasn’t even heard of. But it isn’t just a visit as Chuna thinks–they’re going to stay. Trying to fit in with a new family, new school, and new country when she barely speaks English is very tough. One consolation is getting to pick a new name, Robin. After many tears, a comics drawing class makes a huge difference in her life.

Don’t miss the acknowledgements at the end. They are well worth reading, too. I wish this book was required reading for everyone.

Robin Ha is a cartoonist–read more about her here. See her work here.

Posted in Board Books, So Many Good Books

Leo Loves Mommy

Leo Loves Mommy (Charlesbridge, 2021) by Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Ruth Hearson is a delightful board book coming out in March.

Told in natural feeling rhyme, the story goes through Leo and his mommy’s day. Starting with Mommy’s smile making Leo giggle, and ending with Mummy’s comforting hugs, we see them play, eat, exercise, and do art together.

Aww.

This is a companion book to Leo Loves Daddy. In other countries, Leo is Zeki–see more books about them here. Check out Anna’s other books here.

You can catch up with Ruth on Facebook. I love how sweet her illustrations are.

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

When Pencil Met the Markers

Perfect Picture Book Friday

When Pencil Met the Markers (Imprint, 2020) by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr. and illustrated by Germán Blanco is a fun and encouraging book for anyone who at some point didn’t fit in.

All the markers love to color, but the purple marker loves to color everywhere! He doesn’t stay inside the lines. When Purple is told he doesn’t fit, he feels blue. But then he meets Pencil who gives him the idea of coloring on plain paper. Pencil adds to the drawings. Not only do they have fun, but now the other markers are interested, so now they work together.

This book stands alone but is a sequel to When Pencil Met Eraser. Here’s the story behind that book from Karen. Learn more about the authors: Karen here and Luis here, and about the illustrator Germán here.

Posted in Market Prep, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

You’ve Written a Children’s Book—Now What?

I often see writers say they’ve finished their first children’s book and don’t know what to do next. These are questions I would like to ask each one:

What type of children’s book have you written? A picture book? An early reader? A chapter book? A middle grade novel? If you don’t know, find out.

Does the word count fit the category? For example, picture books are often under 500 words. The others have specific word lengths as well. Check out this resource.

Is your book appropriate for the age range? Most 10-year-olds are not reading picture books. Here’s a quick resource: “Age Levels for Children’s Books.”

Are you reading books in that age range? If you don’t know what’s out there, how can you judge your own work?

Is your story unique? Or is it an oversaturated topic? If a common picture book topic, does it have a unique twist at the end?

Have you researched books like it? That means you’ll know where it would fit on a shelf in a bookstore. That it fits the style of books published in the last five years—not what you read as a child.

Is it preachy? Is it written to entertain or to teach a lesson? What do you prefer reading? A novel or a sermon? I love what Roald Dahl said, “The contents of my books are not going to teach them anything at all, except to grip them by the throat and make them love to read.”

Have you revised? All writers have to revise their work. “Do not query before you have a) finished writing your book, b) revised your book, c) shown your query to someone unfamiliar with your work who can point out confusing bits.” -Lauren Spieller

Have you gotten any feedback from other children’s book writers working in the same category? Critique partners are an invaluable part of the process. You can find them through writing organizations, classes, and online groups. My first choice is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (scbwi.org)—it’s where I’ve gotten my groups. Several Facebook groups I belong to have critique partner matchup areas: Kidlit411 has Manuscript Swap and Sub It Club has a Critique Partner Matchup.

If it’s a picture book written in rhyme, is it well done? Most editors hate near rhyme and forced rhyme. If someone else reads it aloud, do they read it in the correct rhythm? I love Josh Funk’s “Don’t Write in Rhyme.”

Others often jump into these conversations and ask, “Do you want to self-publish or traditional publish?” I believe you need to know what your book is, and about the market, before making any publishing decisions.

Feel free to comment or ask further questions.

Posted in Award Winners, PB, So Many Good Books

this way, Charlie

Perfect Picture Book Friday

this way, Charlie, inspired by a real animal friendship, (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2020) by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso is a tear-jerker of a story.

Everyone at Open Bud Ranch can see that Jack, the goat, likes space to himself. Except Charlie, the horse, who can only see out of one eye. Still Charlie is cheerful. Jack watches him carefully and realizes they have a lot in common. One day when Jack sees Charlie having trouble, he decides to lead the way. The two become close friends and help each other live better lives despite the storms that come their way.

I feel like my description is so inadequate for this powerful story of healing and friendship. Don’t miss out on this lovely book.

Caron Levis and Charles Santoso have also teamed up on another picture book. Check out Ida, Always and the awards and honors it has received. Read about the author here and the illustrator here. And don’t miss out on Charles’ other books on his website and Caron’s other books here.