Love, Laughter, and Life

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Author Interview: TOFU TAKES TIME by Helen H. Wu

I love learning how different foods are made, so you can imagine how much I loved reading this new picture book by Helen H. Wu. TOFU TAKES TIME (Beaming Books) will make its appearance on April 19, and I can’t wait! Let’s get right to it and meet the author.

Welcome, Helen! Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much Angie for having me! I am thrilled to share more about TOFU TAKES TIME and my publishing journey. I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as a translator. I work as the associate publisher at Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publishing house which publishes picture books in Chinese and English.

I’m so excited about TOFU TAKES TIME! It makes me want to make tofu. Or at least eat some!

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for TOFU TAKES TIME?

The inspiration for this story was born of my tofu-making experience with my treasured grandma. When I was a kid, I often sat nearby and watched as she cooked—a process that sometimes involved tofu. She would wash vegetables, chop meat, stir porridge, and cook all the meals for our entire family. It was during these times that she would share stories that transported me to faraway places and other eras. After I moved to the US and had my own family, my kids would ask many questions about the process and tools we used to make tofu together: serving as a warm reminder of the sweet time I spent with my grandma in the small kitchen across the ocean. Hence, a story began to take shape.

I LOVE that this picture book is so closely tied to your family and wonderful memories. What a special treasure for your family!

What was your writing journey for this book?

A great book calls for multiple layers with varied messages readers can take away from the story. Though the idea behind the book was grounded in the tofu-making process, I knew the story must involve a bigger concept that is more relevant to kids. When I cooked with my own kids, I noted their preoccupation with imaginative play and occasional complaints about the time required to cook a proper meal: which inspired me to weave the topic of patience into the text. In examining the tofu-making process in a more imaginative way, I discovered an assortment of inherent elements that connect with nature and even the universe at large. I’m now so happy to have found a sweet spot that includes food, culture, patience, nature, and intergenerational love all tied into one story.

The way that TOFU TAKES TIME is told through the voice of a young child is pretty awesome! Learning patience is such a difficult thing for young people. I still struggle with being patient.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of TOFU TAKES TIME on April 19?

I have a book launch event planned on the book birthday, April 19th! I’m so excited to present the book launch event of TOFU TAKES TIME with Avid Bookshop, with talented illustrator and bookseller Julie Jarema! The reading and conversation will take place on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from 7pm – 8pm ET on Zoom. Preorders from Avid Bookshop will come with a special bonus: a 5”x7” print, bookmark, food stickers, and a bookplate signed by the author and illustrator created just for TOFU TAKES TIME. Don’t miss your chance. You can register here:

 https://www.avidbookshop.com/tofulaunch (Isn’t it a cute URL for the event?)

LOVE it! So much fun!

I love the heart in TOFU TAKES TIME, the relationship between grandmother and grandchild, and the connections between tofu and the ingredients/resources needed to make it. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

Thank you! Speaking of picture book writing, I didn’t have typical picture books when I was a kid growing up in China. We had black and white comic books and only in the last two decades, picture books were introduced into China. My writing career started from being part of picture book projects. Reading, especially reading all kinds of picture books, is one of the best ways for me to foster imagination, expand my knowledge, and be open to new ideas. Picture book is a magical format that I feel can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time. And as an art lover, I also find it’s very entertaining and soothing to simply enjoy the artwork of picture books.

I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, mainly Dick and Jane readers. I do remember jumping right into chapter books. Many of them are still favorites. I’m so glad that picture books are being published for much larger audiences. And the artwork of picture books is divine!

What are you working on now?

My next picture book, LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom, will be published by Yeehoo Press in February, 2023. Inspired by my experience as a minority immigrant student, this picture book follows a Chinese dragon who struggles to breathe fire in his new Western dragon school, only to discover he must carve his own path to finding a sense of belonging. Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, self-acceptance, and cultural differences.

Oh, dragons! This sounds perfect!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Read as many books as you can in the genre you intend to write. Take picture book writing classes. Find a critique group and get feedback on your stories. Revise, revise, revise. Most importantly, keep writing and keep going.

Excellent tips. Writers, let’s get busy!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I started writing and illustrating in 2012 and since then I’ve self-published over 20 picture books. TOFU TAKES TIME is my first traditional published book, my debut book. Good things take time!

TOFU TAKES TIME is such a lovely, heart-warming story! I’m excited to see it out in the world. Thanks so much for stopping by, Helen! And CONGRATULATIONS!

About Helen

Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author, illustrator, translator and publisher. She is the author of TOFU TAKES TIME, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022) and LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Currently, Helen lives in San Diego, California, with her family and two kids.

Learn more about Helen at:

HelenHWu.com

Twitter @HelenHWu

Instagram @HelenHWu


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Happy Book Birthday to HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?! Interview with Author-Illustrator Beverly Love Warren

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book birthday for Have You Seen Mouse? by author-illustrator Beverly Love Warren! Beverly is one of my critique partners, and I am pleased as punch (can punch be pleased?) to feature her Happy Book Birthday for her new picture book! Be sure to download and print Beverly’s free coloring page!

Let’s get right to it.

Welcome, Beverly! Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you, for the interview, Angie.

I live with my husband in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by forested mountains, valleys with rivers, and lots of wildlife. This setting, my faith, my family, and aspects of my childhood have been the main sources of inspiration for what I write and illustrate. When I was young, I wanted to be a fashion illustrator and therefore I chose to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where I got a degree in illustration and design.

Shortly thereafter I married, and we settled in the Seattle area where I taught art at a private school that my children attended. During that time, a mother of one of my students invited me to an SCBWI* meeting. Later I became a member myself, and through SCBWI I got my first job illustrating children’s educational literature. Due to the many books I had read to my children and the material I was reading for illustration purposes, a desire to also write for children began to grow.

Then in 2016 my husband and I took a trip to New Zealand where we visited the Weta Workshop in Wellington. This is where the props for the Lord of the Rings movies were made. That trip cemented my desire. After returning home I began my first writing course, Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic.

*SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Beverly, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a critique partner with you! It was so much fun to be a part of the process and to see your book come to life! And New Zealand is on my bucket list!

Happy Book Birthday! What was your inspiration for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?

My husband and I like to take road trips when time permits. In October 2019 we were traveling through northern Idaho when I gazed into the forest at a fallen tree. In my imagination I saw a bear sitting on the tree weeping. I wondered why and concluded that he lost his best friend and couldn’t find him. I happened to have my notebook with me and I immediately wrote the draft. The bear became the protagonist, but I needed to know who his friend would be. I thought back to my childhood and remembered all the mice I had as pets and decided that a little mouse would make a perfect best friend.

That’s a fun way to begin a story! I’ve jotted down ideas for several stories doing the same thing, sitting in the passenger seat while my husband drives us around on road trips.

What was your journey for this book?

In February 2019 I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. Her challenge was to write a new picture book draft each month for 12 months. HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE? was November’s draft. I went through the revision process both in the 12×12 forum and with my critique groups. (Thank you, Angie!)

In January 2020 I took Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy Illustration course. At the end of this 6-week course, the completed art of each student would be viewed by selected editors and agents. I had hoped and prayed there would be interest in my illustrations, but I needed to leave the class during the fifth week because my mother became ill. Mira entered my art in the viewing anyway and about a month later Callie Metler, publisher of Clear Fork/Spork, contacted me. She was interested in having me illustrate a picture book. After reading the manuscript she sent, I signed the contract. While working with Callie on that book, she said she liked the palette I used in Mira’s class. I told her there was a story that went with the art and asked if she would like to read it. Graciously, she agreed. Later she said the story was precious and then we signed the contract for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?.

How exciting! 12×12 is a wonderful resource and community for picture book writers and it’s fun to run into you when we are at webinars or online for something.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?

My husband may take me out to dinner, but he may surprise me instead.

Oh, I hope he surprises you! Surprises are fun!

I love the heart in HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

As an example, and as I mentioned above–I remembered my mice, but I also had many hamsters. Once one of them got lose in the house. I looked everywhere, but I could not find him and concluded that he got outside. I remembered my sorrow and drew upon that for Humphry’s [the bear] feelings in MOUSE, and his search for his friend.

That’s the perfect way to build emotion into a story! I remember sitting at the dining room table with my family one day when I was in grade school. Suddenly my mom screamed. And we all jumped up to help her chase down the cat, who had our Teddy bear hamster in her mouth! Childhood memories are great ways to get picture book ideas.

As an author-illustrator, how do you both write and illustrate a picture book story?

I am primarily an illustrator, but when I begin a story I start with the text, not the illustrations. I see the main character in my mind, and I know the general premise or theme of what I want the story to be about. With pen in hand, I watch the main character in my mind move through the events toward the goal. Along the way I ask myself the “who, what, when, where, why, how, and what if” questions. This gets my rough draft on paper. Then the revisions happen with the help of my critique partners.

When the story is close to being completed, I will draw up a few character sketches and a simple dummy to see if everything is working. Once I am satisfied, I will illustrate one or two samples of full color art with watercolor and color pencils This is all done with the anticipation that I will be submitting them somewhere.

I am in awe of you as an illustrator! I draw excellent stick figures. At least my kindergarten students never complained!

Download and print this free coloring page from Beverly!

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a middle grade novel about a boy who is fearful of growing family responsibility and goes searching for his father who has broken a promise and seems to have disappeared. I also have four picture book manuscripts I have finished or that are close to being finished along with some thumbnails and one or two pieces of final art.

Best wishes on all of your new projects!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Feedback is so important to story development. Others can see holes in a story that the author may be blind to or knows are there but cannot figure out how to fix. Feedback for illustrations is also helpful. Sometimes a page would be better illustrated with a distinct perspective, or the colors are not working, or a character needs more expression in the face or body movement. In other words, critique partners are necessary to help make stories as strong as possible before submission. Also, both authors and illustrators run into many rejections. A strong desire, perseverance and encouragement are important to overcome the rejections. Lastly, do not compare your journey as a writer or artist with others unless the comparison can make you stronger. If comparison tends to defeat you, then ignore it. We are all unique and our paths will be different. And if the story of your path to publication is strewn with obstacles and setbacks it may be the exact story that someone else needs to hear.

Thanks so much for the encouragement. Excellent tips!

Beverly, thanks so much for stopping by on your busy book birthday! Congratulations and best wishes with Have You Seen Mouse?! I can’t wait to get my own copy to read and enjoy!

Readers, remember the best way to support picture book writers and illustrators is to share the good news, purchase their books, and leave reviews. Thank you!

Find Beverly at her website.

Amazon

Amazon Blurb: When Humphry, a bear, discovers his best friend has moved away, he searches the forest to find him, only to return home alone. It is then that he discovers how much his friend loves him. Have You Seen Mouse? shows the young reader the devotion and perseverance of a true friendshi


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Author Interview: The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup by Hunter Liguore (Plus #giveaway)

“A rumination on our interconnection with others” (Hunter Liguore)

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore

Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

Yeehoo Press, 2021

It’s World Read Aloud Day! Here’s one picture book that will make your read aloud time scrumptious.

We all know how a grandmother can make the world go round. I’m a Nana, and I join with Nan as she cares for her loved ones by feeding them. Not only is this a delicious story, but The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup is filled cover to cover with delectable illustrations and tasty tidbits of all of the work involved in providing the ingredients and growing the soup. Lovely! Thanks so much to Kathy Temean, Hunter Liguore, Vikki Zhang, and Yeehoo Press for introducing me to The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup.

I’m glad you stopped by. Keep reading to meet Hunter Liguore and learn about her picture book, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. See the directions at the bottom of this post to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy.

***Coming soon: Swing back by to meet meet illustrator Vikki Zhang!

Now, let’s get to our interview with Hunter!

Welcome, Hunter! Congratulations on your new book! Tell us a little about The Whole World in Nan’s Soup.

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a rumination on our ability to recognize our interconnectedness with ‘all’ people. It is wisdom passed down many generations through my own gran, who understood that in order to eat a single meal, it takes the whole world to make it.

Our dinner table doesn’t end at the four corners, but is reciprocal; it extends to all those faceless helpers involved with making sure we’re nourished—and that’s a very beautiful thing! When we take the time—through slow-cooking—to see and talk about ‘all’ people in a bowl of soup, then we can begin to notice it in other areas of our life with the same care and unity.

The more we see our oneness, the more each meal—each bowl of soup—becomes a celebration, and our struggle with each other falls away, and the harmony we experience within will be reflected back.

I love how the interconnectedness plays out in this picture book. I have so many fond memories of eating meals prepared by my grandmothers and mother. Living in an agricultural valley, I see how much work it takes to feed families.

What was your inspiration for The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup?

The inspiration for The Whole World in Nan’s Soup comes from a careful rumination on reciprocity, or the understanding that the food we eat each day is made possible through the dignity of gentle workers. Reciprocity is more than an intellectual understanding of treating others with the same respect we wish for ourselves. It goes deeper and implies, ‘Who I am on the inside is the same as what is on the inside of others,’—and if that’s true, we can experience and discover for ourselves the delicate thread that connects all people.

When we meet others, we can do so with an awareness that their suffering is our suffering, felt and experienced the same way, and through empathy—through not wanting suffering for ourselves—we will not want it for another; thus, we will seek harmony and peace in all our words, actions, and relationships.

This was the foundation of the story, which can be practiced while making soup! As our understanding of reciprocity grows, so does our empathy. The circle of life expands, as we recognize we’re not able to live without those beautiful helpers, which we can now honor with our thankfulness, our kindness, our understanding, our patience, and most of all, our self-responsibility that discerns: we are the root of others’ suffering when we set aside our interconnection. We can always take time to recognize our interconnection with others. Even in a bowl of soup!

Beautiful!

What was your journey for this book?

A very gentle one.

I love hearing that!

How did you celebrate the book birthday of THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP when it came out August 2021?

Making soup and sharing it with family and friends.

Perfect!

I love the heart in THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP. The family relationships and the connections between ingredients and their sources is fascinating. It takes making soup to a deeper level. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

For me, writing evolves from our wholeness with our self/others/world, a harmonized unity or intuition. It is a way of life, a practice that is occurring in each delicate moment, a sacred unfolding, one where I’m given an opportunity to bring gentle love, unity, cooperation, and perfection into my craft and art, creating for the sake of creating, while being in tune with the greater whole.

Creativity is such a gift.

What are you working on now?

A vision of our future that includes a human traffic free food chain through a farm-certification program similar to Fair Trade or organic.

That sounds fascinating!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

To all writers/creatives, trust yourself. Writing will only ever be about how much someone is willing to trust their vision. We are inventor of worlds, with words, it’s an art entrusted to the one who perseveres even in doubt, even when nothing makes sense, in order to realize the creative vision as a reality—and that takes trust! It takes belief that uncertainty isn’t difficulty, but an opportunity to shape the creative fire.

Thank you for the encouragement!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a celebration of our interconnection to our world, so I encourage readers to find ways to celebrate life, food, family/friends, our ancestors and relationships, our Earth and the wild ones dwelling in partnership with us; our meals, our dinner table, gentle cooking without harm; celebrate our farms and the food stores you patron, and the people you meet there, who are caring for you. Plant flowers and watch the cycle of this infinite celebration of love and life. Be attentive and you’ll see how connected we truly are. Even in difficulty, we can find small ways to celebrate and contribute to the joy in the world.

Thank you, Hunter, for sharing from your heart. Thank you for visiting today and for creating this beautiful picture book!

Ready to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup (US only)? A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Wednesday, February 9.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win. Example: bookwinner (at) yahoo (dot) com

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.

Links:

To book on Yeehoo Press: https://www.yeehoopress.com/books/the-whole-world-inside-nans-soup/

Twitter: @skytale_writer

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

Website: www.hunterliguore.org

About me: Hunter Liguore is a gentle advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and with one another. An award-winning author, professor, and historian, her writing has appeared internationally in magazines like Spirituality & HealthIrish PagesOrion, and more. When not making soup, she is often roaming old ruins, hillsides, and cemeteries. To learn more, visit: hunterliguore.org or @skytale_writer.


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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.