Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Happy Book Birthday Interview with Farren Phillips, Author-Illustrator of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING! Plus a Giveaway!

When I’m Not Looking

Written and illustrated by Farren Phillips

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Happy book birthday to When I’m Not Looking!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a special blog post celebrating a book birthday for Farren Phillips and her new book When I’m Not Looking!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

On with the show.

Welcome, Farren! Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a children’s author and illustrator from England, currently living in Scotland. I studied illustration and children’s media for five years at Cambridge School of Art and graduated with an MA in 2019. Since then, I’ve been establishing myself in the industry and passionately etching away at new projects. I mostly specialise in picture books, but I’ve worked on a few more comic-style books for older children, as well as some non-fiction kids’ books.
I’ve been obsessed with picture books since I was about seventeen. I’d always known I wanted to study art and do an art-centric job, and at the time I was working in a children’s library surrounded by children’s media. I quickly realised that the picture book is my favourite story telling format and since then I’ve never stopped collecting them, studying them, and making them!

I will admit to being somewhat (hugely) envious of your living and working in Scotland! And studying at Cambridge. I’m right there with you on collecting, studying, and making picture books. I just accidentally deleted a folder containing one of my nearly ready picture books. EEEK. But I was able to recover it. Whew.

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING?
Thank you! I had a few inspirations with this book. I’ve always been really interested in philosophy and love to include philosophical and ethical ideas in children’s stories, because really all kids are born little philosophers and it just makes sense. I’d been reading about Schrödinger’s cat at the time, the famously known paradox of quantum superposition. The idea was that when inside a box with a deadly subatomic event which may or may not happen at any time, a hypothetical cat could be considered both alive and dead simultaneously. The idea just really interested me, and I started thinking about other paradoxical ideas, such as whether a tree falling in the forest would make a sound if no one were around to hear it. It was amusing to consider that when not seeing or hearing something, as humans we have no real proof that it exists, so in theory when you turn your back the world could fall away behind you and you’d have no idea. I loved the potential of this concept as a story, and with some thought and condensing of the larger idea, I came up with When I’m Not Looking; a story about a young philosopher who ponders the more wacky and irrational things of what could be going on behind her back. Originally the story was called Paraducks, but was changed in the early stages of editing.

Fascinating! I also love the original title. Perhaps that title will find itself on a book cover one day. Your premise is perfect for kids who love using their imaginations!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you wrote this book? As both author-illustrator, how did that impact your creative process?
Believe it or not, I actually wrote this book a few years back for a project in University. The story and original illustrations picked up some interest when I brought my Portfolio to the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, and as a result I started working with a few publishers on other works. I’d worked on two books with Yeehoo Press prior to When I’m Not Looking called The Orb and The Death Book, by this point in time I had assumed my old graduate project had been long forgotten by publishers, but out of the blue they brought it up and took a renewed interest. I took to re-working the text to make the story a more interactive affair, and re-did all of the illustrations from scratch, it really became a passion project for me, and I love how it turned out.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading When I’m Not Looking. There are so many details to enjoy. Well done!

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how will you celebrate the book birthday of WHEN I’M NOT LOOKING on May 18?
I’ve put together a fun little interactive story time video as well as a follow-along craft teaching children how to make their own dancing duck puppet. It’s a shame that Covid restrictions make it harder to put on physical events, but we do what we can with what we have! I hope once things become a little more normal again that I could perhaps attend an event in person to celebrate too. For now, I’ll probably treat myself to a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake in celebration while staying indoors and keeping safe.

Oh, fun! I hope I can catch the video. I have a grand who LOVES ducks. He might enjoy making a puppet. Tea and cake sound perfect!

I love the detailed illustrations! There is so much going on and so many surprises for readers to discover. What strategies do you use to get into the creative zone and create such fun illustrations?

With the illustrations, I’d previously always stuck to more simplistic and minimal styles when working on books just out of preference, but since the book had originally been produced for a university project, I wanted to push out of my comfort zone and try something very different with lots of detail and colour. I’ve always been fond of books which are good at telling a second story or explaining the characters’ motives using the backgrounds, so I spent a lot of time looking into realistic family homes and drawing from observation, refusing to wash over the bits people usually leave out of nice drawings, like clutter and spills. I really enjoyed putting together busy images of Leg’s family home, adding lots of silly details into their space to really show what their lives are like beyond the story. I feel it helps the book to not only be exciting for younger children who love the search-and-find aspects, but also to be interesting for older children and parents who can notice something new in the pages on every read through.

You certainly did a wonderful job. I know I will find something new on each read through! Love that it’s not all neat and tidy like you said, but real life messy.

What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a short series of history books for children called Second in the World, hopefully due to come out some time next year. It’s quite a huge change from the normal projects I work on, but it has been a lot of fun doing extensive research and creating fun and informative illustrations. I’m currently finishing up editing the first book and producing the roughs and text for the second.

Wow! That sounds interesting! You have your hands full!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
I’ve got a number of other projects on the go that I’ll keep sneaking peaks of on social media. My favourite at the moment being a funny and feminist story about a very naughty monkey and a very irritated little girl who doesn’t take nonsense sitting down. I can’t wait to share it with you all!

That’s sounds fun! What a combination-a naughty monkey and an irritated girl (and very determined it sounds like)! I look forward to reading more! Or getting more sneak peaks…

Thanks again for letting me visit! Farren

Congratulations, Farren, and best wishes on When I’m Not Looking and all of your other projects!

Readers, you can purchase your own copy of When I’m Not Looking by clicking the following links:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-im-not-looking-farren-phillips/1137974864?ean=9781953458070

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/when-i-m-not-looking/9781953458070

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Not-Looking-Farren-Phillips/dp/1953458076/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=when+I%27m+not+looking&qid=1621302615&sr=8-3

Farren’s social links: 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/farrenphillipsillustration/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/FarrenPhillips

Website: https://www.farrenphillipsillustration.co.uk/

Here are 3 ways to get your name in the hat to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking (US only). A winner will be randomly chosen in this Friday, May 21.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

3. Visit my Twitter page @AngieQuantrell for more chances to win a copy of When I’m Not Looking.


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Author Interview: Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion by James Pray (Sterling Children’s Books)

Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion

by James Pray

Sterling Children’s Books, 2020

I first heard about Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion on Kathy Temean’s blog Writing and Illustrating. Thanks to that post, I won a copy of this romping good story by James Pray. You can read Kathy’s author post at: https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2020/12/17/book-giveaway-jonesy-flux-and-the-gray-legion-by-james-pray/

Once I received my copy in the mail, I couldn’t put it down. Until I was finished. I loved Jonesy and the many adventures and disasters she encountered in this fast-paced sci-fi tale. I thought it would be fun to reach out to James and invite him to stop by for a visit. Thank you, James!

Welcome, James! Tell us a little about yourself. Hi! I’m a writer and engineer from Michigan. I like long walks on the beach and filling my pockets with fossils along the way, but mostly I write a lot. Outside of that and my day job, most of my time concerns the corgi and pair of high-octane children that have been systematically destroying our house for the last few years.

Oh dear, the dreaded disasters of helpful children and cute dogs! Well done for being able to squeeze in time for writing!

What was your inspiration for Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion? It’s hard to narrow this down too much. There’s a real sense, for me, that I “had” Jonesy’s story long before I knew about it. Her character came from a one- or two-page sketch about her and some other kids marooned on a space station that I shelved sometime in grad school. Her world came somewhat from that of my very earliest shots at writing a novel in middle school. The concept of Fluxing was what ended up gelling it all together. That’s one item whose inspiration I can point to; although I think I made it mine in the end, I’d be a big fat liarface to deny Fluxing’s roots in a trio of anime series I followed at one point and another. I figure they won’t mean much to most people and the remainder won’t have too tough a time figuring it out, so I’ll leave guessing which as an exercise for the reader (with the hint that one is French). Either way, it all snapped together out of nowhere-or-everywhere at a time when I was really longing to write something fun, colorful, and preferably well-stocked with spaceships. It’s probably no coincidence that this happened when my wife was pregnant with our first child — I think there was a huge element of me just needing to process Kids and Parenting and Identity and Growing Up as I put it all together.

Hahaha. Liarface. In picture book writing, we call those influential books “mentor texts.” ;0 I can hear your writing voice even in these answers, which is a huge part of why I loved reading Jonesy Flux.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book? Writing it was a whirlwind. I’ve never taken anything from idea to completed draft as quickly as I did with Jonesy’s story — something like ten weeks! Even if Fluxing was what kicked off the story, Jonesy’s character stole the show for me immediately. Maybe it was because I was a little tired of all the Middle-Grade protagonists who get praised for their virtue and heroism but can’t give an adult a straight answer until the closing scene, but I had a ton of fun exploring the story from the perspective of a “pure-hearted” character who gets in trouble mostly from sticking to her convictions and having high expectations for the hapless adults who cross her path with Grown-Up notions of Compromise and Shades Of Gray. The rest of it was the usual-ish process of editing, waiting a couple of years while my agent moved countries, getting ambushed with a sale to a super-awesome editor, frantically editing some more with the blinds drawn against the lockdownpocalypse, and so on.

That’s amazing! This story was meant to be.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday (release) of Jonesy Flux and the Gray Legion? I had plans to celebrate my debut publication day with my last two cans of Vault Soda, but those expired in 2012, so . . . I left them in the fridge. (I made those plans a long time ago. I’m still on the fence about trying one anyway.) We had dinner and cake at my mom’s house instead. It was nice!

Maybe go back to your mom’s for dinner instead (avoid Vault Soda . . . ). But, if you like to live on the edge, please do let us know how it goes and if you get food poisoning.

What’s your next writing project? Will we see Jonesy again? In no particular order, “Yes!” and “Another Jonesy story!” Assuming all goes to plan, her full journey will take a more-than-trilogy sort of series to complete, partly because I am nothing if not overambitious, but mainly because I want to see her shake things up at the grandest possible scale before she boosts off into the stars for the last time.

Yay! Keep me (I mean us) in the loop. I love long drawn out epic tales that are not over too soon and explore all of what can and usually does happen for both good and evil.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share? Oh noes, an open-ended question? Well, I’m (on absolutely no schedule at all) posting bonus content for Jonesy at my website (jamespray.com), including something like 40 pages’ worth of glossary to fill out the backdrop. And I’ll mention that Twitter (@jamespray) is a great place to chat with me for those who might care to, even if it’s really not a great place in pretty much any other respect. Otherwise, I hope everybody has a good day, and maybe takes the chance to help somebody else have a good day. Like, maybe share a video of cute cats instead of that one article that makes you feel like the world is sliding facefirst into an incinerator? Or something. Oh, and a big, big thanks to Angie for helping get the word out about Jonesy!

You are most welcome! Friends, there is indeed a HUGE glossary at https://www.jamespray.com/bonus plus plenty of other fun information. Perhaps if I had realized this, I could have referred to it as I read Jonesy Flux. My engineering/spaceship/technology lingo is a bit behind the times. But NOW I know. Heh-heh.

Thank you, James, for stopping by today! Best wishes as you write future editions about the adventures of Jonesy Flux!


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Meet the Author: Zach Christensen #authorinterview

Meet the Author!

Scromlette the Omelet Chef

Written by Zach Christensen

Illustrated by Chiara Civati

Mascot Books, 2020

Hello, book friends! Today I’d like to introduce you to the author of Scromlette the Omelet Chef, Zach Christensen. I was sent a copy of Scomlette the Omelet Chef by Mascot Books. You can learn more about Mascot Books here: https://mascotbooks.com/ .

I featured Scromlette the Omelet Chef back in December with three other newly released picture books. Today, let’s take a closer look at a book about food – one of my favorite subjects. On a side note, during a critique group meeting, one of my critique partners mentioned that many of my books have a theme about food, or some type of food connection. Lo and behold, now that she said that, I’ve noticed MOST of my books have some sort of link to food. You can imagine a book about omelets would catch my eye. Er. Stomach? On to Zach’s book.

My Short Blurb:

This book has a great message. Scrom goes from being a bullied child to an adult who shares his love of making omelets with those on the streets. I enjoyed reading how Scrom survived the bullies of his childhood by hanging on to what he loved: making omelettes. The closure of what the bullies did and seeing them later in life as adults-in-need helps Scrom understand why they did what they did, and offers him a chance to help even more. The colorful illustrations help tell the story. Scromlette the Omelet Chef makes me hungry for an omelet!

Meet the Author

Welcome, Zach! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi Angie, and to any readers out there, thank you for listening in. I’m from Nebraska, I’ve worked in social services for six years, and I have always loved a good story. I have a master of arts in theology, so I had suspected for years that my first book would be something quite dense in the realm of philosophy or religious history. Instead, I came to find that a true test of your creativity and material is to distill ideas into simple and accessible stories for children. There is something magnificently compelling about a story that inspires you, give you hope, helps you reframe your state of mind, and reorient how you interact with the world around you. I have always enjoyed helping people find stories that illuminate their lives in new ways.

Zach, I just read what you said in a craft book about writing for children: A writer has to know and research much information about a subject in order to distill it down to create simple, engaging stories for children. I love how we both are thinking about this.

What was your inspiration for SCROMLETTE THE OMELET CHEF?

My primary inspiration was having seen such a resilience and fortitude in my peers and contemporaries around me for my entire life. Growing up, there is a great deal of bullying that children are susceptible to experience. Childhood is already a turbulent time, and it is when we are our most vulnerable that we are most susceptible to endure the worst trauma. Naturally, the book has strong anti-bullying themes. My aim is to tell children that there is something on the other side of the disorienting journey of growing up, and you’ll be able to see it more clearly if you can find something that you love.

With that, I wanted to likewise encourage children to find things that they love giving their time and energy to, while also finding ways to serve people around you. If you can find things that overlap in these two domains, then you have found something that is life-giving for yourself and the world.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book? 

Believe it or not, I actually wrote the entire story in a parking lot while I was waiting for an AWOLNation concert to start. It was as if the story already had existed and I had it in my imagination for years, but the rhymes and stanzas just came to me in that two-hour window of time. The writing of the story really was a materialization of ideas that I had felt children (and really people all of walks of life) needed to hear for some time. I think that is actually central to the craft of writing a story – it is taking what you have encountered in your life, the good and bad, and synthesizing them together in a way that people can look at what you’ve created, and they feel a sense of shared experience with you. When people hear a story and think “me too,” I believe this what is empowering and compelling for people.

All this to say, if you have some life experience that left a lasting impression on you, whether it was characterized by pain, joy, a convergence of the two, or something else, I’d submit to you that you could transform that into a story, and there are people out there who need to hear it.

That’s pretty amazing – two hours! In a car. While waiting for something else. Writers out there? Keep those notebooks handy. Zach, I love this.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday (book release day) of SCROMLETTE THE OMELET CHEF?

Unfortunately, I was not able to have a conventional release party due to the pandemic, but I have been networking with a number of different teachers and educators to help circulate Scromlette to the general public and to get it into classrooms. Likewise, many people among whom I have promoted Scromlette were able to get their copies before Christmas.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I have more stories in the works and some manuscripts are completed and ready for submission! So keep an eye out for new books of mine!

Zach, that’s great news! I look forward to hearing more about future books. Thank you for visiting my blog today, Zach. And thank you for writing such an encouraging picture book.

You can find Zach at:

Instagram: @psaltingtheearth

Twitter: @EarthlyPsalt

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ScromletteTheOmeletChef


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My Monsterpiece by Amalia Hoffman, Book Birthday and Interview

My Monsterpiece

Written and Illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

Yeehoo Press (March 2, 2021)

Amazon Blurb:

Ever tried to make the meanest, wildest, scariest monster? What if even a green tongue, pointy horns, creepy sharp teeth, and claws won’t frighten anyone away?

Join the frustrated artist on a hilariously hair-raising adventure where the scary and not scary mingle and lead to the discovery that overcoming fear and prejudice can bring about a wonderful FRIENDSHIP.

I’m pleased to introduce Amalia Hoffman, author and illustrator of the upcoming book My Monsterpiece (Yeehoo Press, 2021). I met Amalia when I won a copy of her book All Colors from Kathy Temean’s Writing and Illustrating blog. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2019/10/01/book-giveaway-all-colors-by-amalia-hoffman/

Welcome, Amalia! Let’s get to it and learn more about your newest book.

What was your inspiration for My Monsterpiece?

My inspiration for My Monsterpiece was the many years I worked with young children. I noticed that kids love to experiment with art. They explore many media and like to paint on paper plates, scraps of paper, and even grocery bags. This inspired me to create the illustrations for the book using kid-friendly art techniques and supplies.

I was inspired to create a book that will be funny and entertaining but will have a non-preachy message that when we free ourselves from bias and stereotyping, our word is more colorful and we can befriend each other even if we don’t look or behave in the same way.

-I loved that your inspiration came from the children!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you created My Monsterpiece?

My Monsterpiece involved a monstrous journey of over 2 years, from the time I started exploring the idea and “playing with it” in my mind to the time it actually sold to Yeehoo Press. I spent months just making a whole menagerie of monsters. I worked with crayons, color pencils, chalk, poster paints, and finger paints. It was important to me that the monsters will be fresh and not over-done.

I had the story idea lined up but I went through dozens of revisions with agent Anna Olswanger. I shared my drafts with my critique group as well and kept tweaking the story.

After the book sold to Yeehoo Press, I had many conversations with my brilliant editor, Brian Saliba. We brainstormed over the phone and via email. Then, I went through a couple of rounds of revisions. When we felt that the story was tight and solid, I created a dummy—based on the new text, which was quite different from the original text. Since Yeehoo Press publishes simultaneously in English and Simplified Chinese, my dummy had to fit within the format and dimensions for both versions.

Once we were happy with the black and white sketches and pagination, I worked with the art director, Molly Shen, and the graphic designer, Xuyang Liu, on the final interior pages. Once these were completed, I came up with concept designs for the endpapers, final cover, and jacket design. We decided to make the jacket slightly different than the cover underneath, which is something that I really love about the book design. Also, the front endpapers are different than the endpapers on the end of the book. I believe that the endpapers are just as important as the interior pages in a picture book and I was delighted that the Yeehoo’s creative team agreed with me. We also spent many hours deciding what fonts to use and the colors of the lettering.

-It’s incredibly captivating to see how much work goes into a book when you are both author and illustrator. And the number of revisions. Wow!

What plans do you have to celebrate the release of My Monsterpiece?

I usually like to celebrate my book releases with author’s presentations. I already created a monster headpiece that I tend to wear when I present the story. It looks like a tiara with a monster head on it. I am planning very exciting Zoom and in-person presentations. My publisher, Yeehoo Press is putting together a book trailer.

I also plan to offer book giveaways and the publisher will have many freebies for costumers and for large orders.

-Great news! Hope all goes well!

I see your publisher is Yeehoo Press. What can you tell us about Yeehoo Press?

Yeehoo Press is an independent publisher who publishes in English and Simplified Chinese. Headquartered in LA, it’s part of Shanghai Yihe Industrial Co., Ltd, founded on August 2007. The company publishes over 200 titles per year with annual output value of $15 million. 

-That’s pretty amazing!

Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

Apparently, I was a very temperamental child. When I got angry with my mom and dad, I used to punish them by tearing the greeting cards I created for their birthdays and anniversaries.  Years later, when I visited my parents who lived in Jerusalem, I found an envelope with all the bits of torn art that my father saved. When I created My Monsterpiece, I showed the kid’s frustration by creating one spread that feature the kid’s torn monsters.

I remember that when I was about 8, I entered a contest, sponsored by a children’s magazine, to draw a scary witch. Apparently, just like the kid in my book, mine didn’t scare anyone and I didn’t win.

-Fascinating fun facts!

Thank you so much, Amalia, for sharing with us. Best wishes and congratulations on the upcoming release of My Monsterpiece!

To learn more about Amalia, her art, and her books, you can visit her at:

http://www.amaliahoffman.com/

https://amaliahoffman.wordpress.com/


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Author Interview: Playing Possum by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Clarion Books)

Playing Possum

Written and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Clarion Books, July 2020

What joy! Playing Possum is such a delightful book! I fell in love with Alfred and Sophia and the way fear and anxiety dictated their actions. I enjoyed their many interactions and the way the forest creatures joined their adventures, many of them with their own responses to fear. The illustrations and story captivated my imagination and I couldn’t wait to turn the pages to see what happened next.

How does one make friends when burdened with such a built-in fear factor? Calmly and patiently! Jennifer Black Reinhardt has skillfully woven the story of kindness and friendship between unlikely friends in a magical woodland. I invited Jennifer to visit and tell us more about Playing Possum.

Here’s Jennifer!

Welcome, Jennifer! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, Angie, thank you so much for having me visit. I grew up with a mother who was an artist, and her mother (my MomMom) was an artist as well. So, I was always encouraged to create. When I was in second grade, I discovered that I could put words with pictures to tell even more of a story—- I was hooked.

I grew up in Pennsylvania and got my degree in Illustration from Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating, I worked as a freelance illustrator and had success illustrating pretty much everything except picture books. Finally, after many, many years of being persistent, I’m now getting to live my dream of writing and illustrating books for kids.

One is never too young (or I hope, too old) to write stories and draw pictures!

What was your inspiration for Playing Possum?

One night several years ago, my husband was taking out the trash and called to me to identify the animal in our trashcan. Sticking out of the top of the can was a snarling, frozen, possum! I remember feeling sorry for him. He looked so scared and I thought that it was probably even scarier not being able to run away.

Poor thing!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you created this beautiful picture book?

I wrote the initial draft of the story (we all know there are many, many, drafts, and revisions) quite quickly. It is sparse text, but once I had my characters, this story seemed to fall into place (It’s not always like that). I shared it with my critique group and then sent it to my agent. We had interest from editors right away who wished to acquire it (again, not usually like that). Illustrating-wise it was important to me to find a believable balance between what is real and what is imagined. I wanted readers to feel Alfred and Sofia’s kindness toward each other and then having the desire to spread their empathy to help others.

Wow, you are right! Playing Possum fell together quite easily, but it’s not always like that.

How did you celebrate the July 2, 2020, release of Playing Possum? 

Well, a bit differently than for past books, of course. I teamed up with a local bookstore, Sidekick Coffee and Books, and held a virtual Zoom launch party.

Good for you! It is an odd year for book releases and gatherings. Sounds like you had a perfect plan.

Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

One of my earliest and warmest memories is of my mother reading me The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by one of my very favorite illustrators, Gyo Fujikawa. There is a tiny mouse that she has hidden on some of the pages. I can remember so clearly how much I adored looking for that little detail with my mom. It made me extremely happy that I could put so many hidden ‘critters’ in Playing Possum for other young readers to find. I hope they enjoy all those secret surprises.

I love surprises! I can’t wait to go back and reread my book and see how many I can find. Fun!

Thank you, Jennifer, for visiting today! Thank you so much for sending me a copy of Playing Possum via Picture Book Builders. I am very grateful to meet such wonderful characters and read about their adventures.

We send all the best wishes to you and much success with Playing Possum. I hope we get to meet Alfred and Sophia in a new adventure!

Here’s how you can support and get in touch with Jennifer:

Website: jbreinhardt.com

Instagram: jenniferblackreinhardt

Facebook: @jenniferblackreinhardtillustration

Twitter: @jblackreinhardt

Check out the book trailer for Playing Possum.

https://youtu.be/8eOKMhHWO08


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Author Interview: Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten by Laura Purdie Salas (Two Lions)

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Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten

Written by Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Hiroe Nakata

Two Lions (August 2020)

 

Oh, such adorable characters! I’m a cat fan, but cute little Clover takes kitties to a new level. I truly enjoyed reading Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten, to myself and my grands (even the soon-to-be 6th grader was secretly listening). If you have a kitty, I mean child, beginning kittygarten this fall, however that looks in your town, reading this picture book will be the perfect activity to begin exploring and discussing all of the changes and anxieties of a new school experience.

I’m pleased to welcome Laura Purdie Salas, author of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten. After reading her new book, I reached out to Laura and invited her to visit my blog. Thank you for stopping by Laura! Happy book birthday!

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  1. Welcome, Laura! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m a former English teacher and copyeditor who’s been writing book for kids for (gulp) 20 years. Poetry and nonfiction mostly, but I have lots of stories inside, too. CLOVER’s my first pure fiction picture book! I’m also a game player, donut lover, and eager learner, and I love to walk and work at my treadmill desk.

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  1. What was your inspiration for Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten?

I listened to the All the Wonders podcast where Matthew Winner interviewed Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant about their book, I Am (Not) Scared, several years ago. I wondered what was the most unlikely fear a child could have. Puppies! That’s what I thought of. Those morphed into kitties eventually—equally unscary!

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  1. What was the writing journey you took as you wrote Clover Kitty?

I had to justify a character being afraid of puppies or kitties. Over the course of a year and a dozen or so drafts, I tried out many different conflicts and character traits for Clover. Was she anxious? Just used to doing things her own way? Strongly introverted? I learned a bit more about Clover with each draft, and eventually this evolved into a back-to-school story, and Clover became a kitty who experiences sensory overwhelm. So Clover sees a bunch of kitties on the playground at recess, for instance, as “a squealing tornado of fangs and fur.” As someone who is not great at making friends myself, and who also finds crowds overwhelming, I definitely see a bit of myself in Clover.

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Donavyn and Autumn ready to read about Clover!

  1. How have you celebrated the release (August 1, 2020) of Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten?

Oh, boy. It’s a rough year to release a book, isn’t it? In-person events were all canceled, of course. I did a virtual readaloud to some lovely kids through Gigi’s Playhouse (https://gigisplayhouse.org/gigisathome/), but that’s about it in real time. I devoted a bit of extra energy to making some printables to help teachers and families during this nerve-wracking back-to-school time. I’ve got puppets and activity sheets and a school countdown calendar—lots of things to celebrate friends and help kids think about what tools THEY need to make their back-to-school experience a great one! Or at least one with more ups than downs! And there’s been a super blog tour, which I’ve been so grateful for. I have links and excerpts on my site, along with all those printables, at https://laurasalas.com/clover/.

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  1. Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

I’m learning that anxiety is something that can strike anytime. I’m usually upbeat and very practical. With the state of the world right now, however, author visits, book sales, book acquisitions—they are all taking a hard hit. Honestly, I’m worried about my writing career. So I’m gathering my own survival gear. I may not need earmuffs or sunglasses like Clover, but I’m digging deep to find the tools I can use to keep moving forward and making picture books—my favorite thing in the whole world.

Thank so much, Laura, for sharing your journey and your imagination in the form of Clover Kitty!

Here’s how to get in touch with Laura. Check it out – a Clover Kitty page with fun stuff!

  • site: com
  • Clover Kitty page with lots of downloadables: com/clover
  • order signed, personalized copies of the book through Red Balloon: com/clover
  • blog: com/blog
  • Twitter: @LauraPSalas
  • Instagram: LauraPSalas
  • E-letter for educators: com/p5q54g8
  • Patreon (for children’s writers): com/LauraPurdieSalas

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Author Interview: Kindergarten Hat by Janet Lawler (little bee books)

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Kindergarten Hat

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Geraldine Rodriquez

little bee books, 2020

 

Happy book birthday to Kindergarten Hat (June 9, 2020)! As a former kindergarten and preschool teacher, I love any book that helps young students conquer their anxiety and make that leap into going to school. I enjoyed reading about Carlos, his mother, and his new teacher with the giant hat! Janet Lawler is spot on with this lovely, colorful book.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Janet! Don’t forget, everyone, to help Janet celebrate her delayed book birthday on Tuesday, July 28, at 10 AM (Connecticut time). See more info below and mark your calendar.

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Without further delay, here’s Janet!

Welcome, Janet! Tell us a little about yourself.

I started writing picture books as a second career after practicing law for more than a decade. Both careers require that you communicate clearly and simply. But writing for children is a joyful passion that gives me deep satisfaction and peace. I love how words make music, and I marvel at the way illustrators add detail and layers to my stories. Each book is a new adventure! I have had over twenty-five books published and have several more in the pipeline.

What was your inspiration for KINDERGARTEN HAT?

My son and daughter had the same terrific kindergarten teacher, 9 years apart, at our neighborhood grammar school. Judy Baccei always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so her students could find her easily. That hat inspired my story.

What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book?

 My writing journey for this story started over thirteen years ago! I went through many revisions before starting to submit the story to various publishers. I did some submissions on my own and more than once put the manuscript in the “back drawer” as I worked on other stories.

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines was acquired by Brett Duquette at Sterling in 2017. Brett and I really connected throughout the editing process. So I asked my agent to submit KINDERGARTEN HAT to Brett after he’d moved to Little Bee. After one round of pre-acquisition editing, to add depth to Carlos’s emotional journey, the manuscript was acquired. Thereafter, I did another round of revisions, as well as several additional “tweaks” to get the story just right.

Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how did you celebrate the book birthday of KINDERGARTEN HAT?

The pandemic certainly changed my plans for promoting this book! I had planned for a large launch event on May 30th that was canceled. I did a book birthday posting on my Facebook page, and both my publisher and my agency spread the word via Twitter and Instagram. I e-mailed and messaged indie bookstores and friends, fans, and family all over the country. I have recorded a virtual story time that will post live on the Kids Place of the Farmington CT Public Library on Tuesday, July 28 at 10 a.m. That will be my delayed “book birthday” launch! Anyone can visit that day or thereafter, to hear more detail about the book and listen to my full reading of the story. https://www.facebook.com/flkidsplace/

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I have had a 2nd book released this summer—Good Night, Little Engine. , The classic tale by Watty Piper, The Little Engine That Could, celebrates its 90th Anniversary in 2020!  Grosset & Dunlap asked me to write a rhyming bedtime story as part of the celebration. Good Night, Little Engine is beautifully illustrated by Jill Howarth. I hope that both KINDERGARTEN HAT and Good Night, Little Engine will help comfort and encourage kids during uncertain times.

Congratulations, Janet! I look forward to reading more of your books!

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Amazon Blurb:

A practically perfect first-experience story, especially for anxious hearts and gentle spirits.” Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Carlos Abredo is scared to start kindergarten, but a special teacher with an amazing hat helps give him the confidence to start the school year with a smile.

Carlos Abredo loves building forts, playing soccer, vrooming cars, and gardening. But after moving to a new town, he’s nervous to start his first day of kindergarten. What if the bus gets lost? What if he can’t make friends? What if he can’t find his teacher?! Starting school can be intimidating for anyone, but when you’re also the new kid, it can be downright scary.

When Carlos gets a letter from his new teacher, he starts to feel a little better. He picks out a gift for her, and after a much-needed hug from Mom, he sets off for his first day. But when his present is accidentally ruined, will Carlos be able to salvage his first day of school?

From Janet:

Carlos is new to town and his anxieties grow as he prepares for the first day of school and travels on the bus with a special flower for his teacher’s hat. This floral take on the starting-school theme was inspired by Janet’s son and daughter’s wonderful kindergarten teacher. She always wore a huge flowered hat on the first day, so that kids coming off the buses could find her.
It is likely that little ones starting school this fall following the corona virus crisis may be struggling with messy feelings and worries. Hopefully, the humor and heart of KINDERGARTEN HAT will make them feel less alone and help each of them start their first day with a great big kindergarten smile.


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Throwback Thursday: Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield #TBT

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Now, I know this Throwback Thursday only goes back to last fall (October), but look at the beautiful book I received in the mail from Little Bee Books! I thought I would share the cover and a few inside pages again. Just because.

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You can read the original posts (throwbacks) by clicking the links below.

Book Report: Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield

Author Vivian Kirkfield Interview

***The Giveaway mentioned in the Author Interview post has concluded.

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About Vivian Kirkfield (Author)

Vivian Kirkfield’s career path is paved with picture books. From shelving them in a children’s library and reading them with her kindergarteners, to writing them, her goal has always been to help kids become lovers of books and reading. She is the author of many picture books including: Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book; Pippa’s Passover Plate; From Here to There: Inventions that Changed the Way the World Moves; and Sweet Dreams, Sarah. Her parent-teacher guide, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking is a valuable resource for child-care facilitators. Vivian lives in the quaint New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire, where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her ten-year-old grandson is her favorite Monopoly partner.
Visit Vivian’s website.

About Alleanna Harris (Illustrator)

Alleanna Harris has been drawing for as long as she can remember. As a little kid, she would draw on every page of her mom’s legal pads, her notebooks at school, and on the programs at church. She graduated from the University of the Arts with a BFA in animation with honors, and it was during this time she realized her love for illustration. Alleanna finds inspiration in the beauty of everyday things. She seeks to create images that are immersive, rich in color, and have a sense of warmth. She lives in New Jersey. Find out more about her at alleannaharris.com.

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I hope you’ll find a copy of Making Their Voices Heard and enjoy it yourself.


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Book Report: Oh, The Places You’ve Been by Ben Everard & INTERVIEW

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Oh, The Places You’ve Been

Written by Ben Everard with Mary Everard

Illustrated by Andrea Alemanno

Mascot Books; BOOK BIRTHDAY on February 4, 2020

 

Happy Book Birthday to Oh, The Places You’ve Been! (February 4, 2020)

Thank you, Mascot Books, for this review copy of Oh, The Places You’ve Been.

I don’t know about you, but I’m one of those people who will stoop to pick up a forgotten coin, no matter the value. Pennies seem to be the most popular coins to leave behind, most likely due to the low value. BUT only 99 more, and I will have a dollar.

The appearance of these dropped or discarded pennies does make one wonder. How did it get here? Why does it look like this? Where has it traveled?

Oh, The Places You’ve Been is told from the viewpoint of a lost penny. With great imagination, the penny tells a young girl about many of the places it has traveled, rested, stayed, and escaped. This story is told in rhyme.

BE SURE to READ all the way to the bottom for an INTERVIEW with Ben Everard.

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What I Liked About This Book:

~ the imagination! I love considering where my coins have been.

~ the periods at the end of the sentences are tiny pennies! Very cute.

~ the story of the coin. I mean, if only we could have all of the same experiences, life would be grand.

~ the illustrations are mostly at the eye level of the penny

~ this story is told from the viewpoint of a penny. Now that is unique and fun!

~ lovely colors and a variety of illustrations

~ the ending page asks the reader to consider “Where has your penny been?” I love thinking about this. Great job!

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Amazon Blurb:

Where has your penny been? Oh, the Places You’ve Been is a delightful picture book following the life of a small penny. From city sidewalks to snowy mountaintops, fields full of fireflies and all the way to the Moon, a young girl learns this little coin has traveled far and wide to end up in her pocket. But how can something so small have traveled so far? This playful rhyming tribute to Dr. Seuss explores how even small, long-forgotten things have amazing stories to tell.

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Welcome, Ben Everard! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, went to college at the University of Miami, then attended law school at The George Washington University Law School.  I met my wife, Mary, in college and we were married right after I graduated law school.  I began my career as an attorney at Quinn Emanuel in Los Angeles.  After three years as a corporate litigator, I left the active practice of law to pursue a path producing films.  I’ve been very fortunate to work on a few wonderful films, including LIGHTS OUT and THE LAUNDROMAT.  Currently we are filming an upcoming movie called YES DAY with Jennifer Garner, which will be a Netflix original film.  We are very excited by it!  I have three beautiful children and live in Manhattan Beach, CA.
That’s exciting, Ben!
What was your inspiration for Oh, The Place You’ve Been?
Oh, The Places You’ve Been is inspired by a number of things.  I have to give credit to my Grandmother, who taught me at a young age that finding a penny off the ground should be interpreted as someone you’ve lost in your life saying hello to you.  Obviously it’s not a literal interpretation, but a metaphor that I think highly of. Because of that lesson, I’ve always picked pennies off the ground when I see them.  I remember finding a penny that was from the 1940s one time, and it made me pause and think of all the places that penny must have been in its existence.  Once I had children, I started reading children’s books regularly.  I love the classics – Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go is the first book I read to each of my children.  And while I am a big fan of quality children’s books, I certainly came across a large number that I didn’t think had a great message and felt like noise more than anything else.  Instead of complaining about that, I set out to see if I could do one myself.  Whether or not I’ve succeeded others will decide, but it certainly was a more lengthy and complicated process than one might think.  I also did it in part as a lesson to my children – if you set your mind on a goal or objective, work hard at it until you accomplish it.  I was rejected by MANY publishers, but the book exists.  Failure is a part of the journey.
That’s neat that your grandmother inspired this book. I totally agree with you about picking up pennies.
What was the writing journey you took as you wrote this book?
Hard work, editing, more editing, soliciting feedback, then rejection, rejection, rejection, and finally publication.  It took well over a year.
Rejection. It’s a part of the process. You just have to keep going forward. And you did!
What special plans do you have to celebrate the birthday of Oh, The Places You’ve Been? (February 4, 2020)
I’d be thrilled to hear that a child or two enjoys the books.
That would be great news!
Surprise us! What else would you like to share?
YES DAY, our upcoming movie, comes from a children’s book by Amy Krause Rosenthal.  I hope it helps bring more picture books to the big screen.
I’m very excited to hear this! Fantastic news!
Thank you, Ben, for visiting with us. Congratulations and best wishes with Oh The Places You’ve Been and YES DAY.
You can find Ben at Instagram.com.
You can find Oh The Places You’ve Been at:


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Author/Illustrator Interview PLUS Giveaway: Meet Nomar Perez

Welcome! I’m excited to introduce you to Nomar Perez. Thanks to Vivian Kirkfield, I was sent a copy of Baby’s First Nativity by Nomar Perez. After reading this adorable board book, I reached out to Anna Howland of Little Bee Books and she connected me with Nomar. Thank you, Anna, Paul Crichton, and Little Bee Books.

Without further ado, here’s Nomar Perez! Be sure to read to the end and find out how to get your name in the hat for a drawing to win a copy of Baby’s First Nativity.

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Baby’s First Nativity

Illustrated by Nomar Perez

Little Bee Books, 2019

1. I was delighted to receive a copy of Baby’s First Nativity (September 17, 2019) from Little Bee Books. I love the colors of the illustrations and the patterns you’ve chosen to use to add texture. When were you asked to illustrate this adorable board book? How did you connect with Little Bee Books?

I was approached to work on the Baby’s First Nativity board in September of last year.  Little Bee connected with my agent to have me work on this and another board book. It has been a delightful project to work on. Especially being such wonderful story that I grew up listening to it.  Also is a very special story that I truly value during the Christmas time.

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2. Tell us about the process you used to illustrate Baby’s First Nativity.

The process was pretty simple. I was giving some style and technique direction. This was a bit of a change in style that I normally work on. The process starts with sketching lots of ideas of how the characters will look like. Once the publisher and me feel we are in the right direction on look and style. I begin to put together the rest of the animals, characters, and scenes.  I was delighted to create something new and different from what I’m use to doing.

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3. What is your favorite part of illustrating picture books?

I enjoy the entire process of creating a book, but my favorite part is when I have all my sketches finalize and I start to paint and add color. This is really exciting because you start to see the book in such a wonderful new way.

4. Tell us a little about your background. What was your path to becoming an illustrator?

I’m originally from Puerto Rico. I came to the United States at the age of 10. I’ve always love to draw and paint. I still remember drawing in my notebooks from school.  Once here in the USA I went to school for Computer Animation and Digital Art. After college I was given the opportunity to work at a wonderful company called American Greetings. I’ve been working as an Illustrator for over 17 years as a Senior Illustrator and as a Freelance illustrator.

5. What other illustration projects are you working on?

Currently, I work on a variety of school publishing work. But one thing that I am most excited about is a book I’m currently writing and illustrating called “Coqui in the City” this will be my first book as an Author and Illustrator. It will be a semi-autobiographical children’s book of my experiences coming from Puerto Rico to America.

6. Fantastic news! Does Coqui in the City have a book birthday yet? Have you completed any illustrations?

The release of the book will be the fall of next year. Here is a sneak peek at what I’ve been working on. 

Congratulations, Nomar! I look forward to reading Coqui in the City. Thank you for visiting with us today and sharing your journey. Best wishes as you continue to illustrate and write.

 

About Nomar Perez

Nomar Perez was born on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, where he grew up in the city of Ponce, a unique city with new and Old Spanish colonial architecture and an amazing array of colors, sounds, and flavors. These aspects of his Puerto Rican culture have influenced Nomar throughout his artistic life. After leaving his homeland at the age of 10 for the U.S., Nomar found himself in touch with all types of media, including animation, puppetry, and computer art. He studied computer animation and painting at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and since then has worked as an illustrator and designer on humor, kids, and young adult products for over 17 years in the social expressions market. Nomar has had the opportunity to work on a variety of children books including both educational and mainstream markets.

 

You can connect with Nomar here:

Nomar Perez

Instagram

Painted-Words Portfolio

GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Little Bee Books for sending a giveaway copy of Baby’s First Nativity.

To enter the giveaway, comment on this blog and tell me the name of your favorite Christmas picture book.

A winner will be chosen on Friday, December 6. This giveaway is open to residents of the United States.