Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Author Interview: OCEANS OF LOVE by Janet Lawler

OCEANS OF LOVE

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2022

I love spending time at the beach! But a deep sea diver I am not, so I’m very happy to have Janet Lawler here today to talk about her new picture book, OCEANS OF LOVE! This new picture book is perfect for visiting underwater habitats without needing a wet suit and oxygen tank.

Welcome, Janet! You visited my blog back when Kindergarten Hat came out, which was soon to be followed by Good Night, Little Engine. Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to since then.

Wow! Time flies! Both those books released during the pandemic year 2020, a time that we all would like to put behind us. But I kept busy throughout since that is my way to handle challenging periods. And during the darkest months of the pandemic, I wrote There’s No Place Like Hope, an inspirational text to help kids get through tough spells. Optimism and hope help anyone facing uncertainty and upheaval, don’t you think?  That book, illustrated by Tamisha Anthony, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux next year.

Ooh, There’s No Place Like Hope sounds perfect! What a wonderful way to spend that closed-up time!

Congratulations on your new picture book OCEANS OF LOVE (Viking Books for Young Readers, February 1, 2022)! It is beautiful! What inspired this story?

Thanks, Angie. I am fascinated by the ocean, and that interest met up with my desire to write another story in my favorite genre—the “love poem.” My first published book, If Kisses Were Colors (Dial, 2003) compares a mother’s love to the vastness and beauty of the natural world. After that, I wrote a few more about how moms and dads show love to their little ones. But I ran out of humans! So I started musing about different animals. OCEANS OF LOVE takes a dive under the waves in an imaginary journey that ponders how sea dwellers might show maternal love.

Lol. You ran out of humans . . . I love the way you moved on to ocean animals.

What writing journey did you follow as you wrote OCEANS OF LOVE? How long did it take from idea to publication?

The journey started over 15 years ago, in 2006. I had already written A Mama Bug’s Love, taking an imaginary love tour with a bunch of bugs. Little Simon acquired and published that story in a pop-up book format. I hoped to have another book to follow and so began working on the text that became OCEANS OF LOVE. But the publisher discontinued that pop-up series and passed on the manuscript.

Over ensuing years, OCEANS OF LOVE spent a lot of time in a drawer as I worked on other stories and projects. I am not sure what caused me to revise and share it with my agent three years ago. After only a few submissions, my editor fell in love with it and acquired it in early 2020.

I’m so glad you decided to revise and share it with your agent!

The text is perfectly enriched by Holly Clifton-Brown’s illustrations. How much input did you have as your book went to Holly to be illustrated?

I was given a chance to comment on illustrators the publisher was considering, and I said yes to Holly! I made small comments on sketches along the way. But for the most part, Holly took her own creative path to where my words inspired her imagination. Her luminous illustrations add depth and detail to my text, in addition to a lovely added story layer.

I totally agree! Holly added lovely layers to your story.

Did you do anything special for the book birthday of OCEANS OF LOVE?

I did my first in-person event in over two years, in conjunction with the wonderful children’s department of my town’s public library. I wore my special fish earrings and my seaweed scarf. I shared the book and its background, and kids joined in a fun fishing activity before going home with fish stickers and a “Love Fish” coloring/craft activity (folks can download that for free off the OCEANS OF LOVE  page on my website).

Fun! Thanks for the link!

What tip(s) could you offer to picture book writers who are seeking to get their books published?

I tell beginning picture book writers to focus on the craft of writing, so that the story is the best it can be before trying to find a publisher or agent. Early on in my career, I sometimes rushed to send out what I thought was the “perfect manuscript,” and the next time I looked at it (sometimes, the following morning!), I saw ways to make it better. I also tell new writers to research markets to make thoughtful submissions. There is so much information available now online about what different publishers and editors want for their lists. Target submitting greatly increases one’s chances of finding a home for a story.

Thank you! Excellent advice.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I am a Walrus Detective! The Walrus from Space project (co-led by the World Wildlife Foundation-UK and the British Antarctic Survey) is assisted by lay volunteers who analyze satellite images of the Arctic taken from space to see if there are any walrus visible. Anyone can do this, in spare time and with a little training! I am fascinated by this arctic mammal, which is why I wrote WALRUS SONG (Candlewick, 2021). I hope you and your readers will check out the Walrus from Space project. The information gathered and analyzed will help experts better understand the impact of climate changes on walrus habitats.

That sounds fascinating! I was once using Google Earth, just popping around way up north of Alaska and Canada and spotted a beached whale on a tiny little spit of land! It was amazing!

Thank you so much for visiting, Janet! Congratulations on OCEANS OF LOVE and best wishes on your future projects!


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Happy Book Birthday Interview with Paddy Donnelly, Author-Illustrator of The Vanishing Lake! Plus a Giveaway!

Happy Book Birthday to The Vanishing Lake!

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book birthday for The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly!

Be sure to read to the bottom to learn how you can get your name in the hat to win a free copy of The Vanishing Lake, compliments of Yeehoo Press (US only). Thank you, Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu, for this opportunity!

Let’s get right to it.

1. Welcome, Paddy! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a picture book illustrator and author, originally from Ireland and now living in Belgium. I’ve had seven picture books published so far, with my debut author illustrated one, The Vanishing Lake, being my 8th. I also illustrate covers for middle grade novels, as well as a bunch of other things. My background is in web design and I did that for a number of years following university, then I transitioned into doing kids’ apps for the iPhone. That introduced me to illustrating for kids and I really enjoyed it. For the last two or three years I’ve been focusing on children’s publishing and I really love it.

You have had a very a fascinating career path!

2. Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for The Vanishing Lake?

Thank you! Well, it’s actually based on a real vanishing lake close to my hometown! It’s called Loughareema and it actually does disappear and reappear every few days. While my book contains a few more magical elements like mermaids, giants and narwhals, Ireland is a place full of mythical stories, so I was always surrounded by that growing up. When I was coming up with a few picture book stories a couple of years ago, the real vanishing lake from back home popped into my head and I thought it’d be an interesting premise for a picture book.

It certainly is interesting! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Vanishing Lake! It’s such a fun, imaginative story!

3. 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?

I started first with the basic idea – a lake that would mysteriously vanish and reappear and vanish and reappear. Then I needed a main character – a child for the reader to identify with. I wanted the character to be searching for the reason for the mystery and ended up with a Grandad character who would tell fantastic stories. Having the main character, Meara, refuse to believe the stories allowed me to keep pushing them to be bigger and more unbelievable. That was the premise and then I started sketching out the roughs, knowing that I had a certain number of pages to work with and that I wanted a few different beats to happen through the book – the lake gone, then flip the page and it was back, then gone again, and then a double page spread for each story, and conclusion. Once I had all of that lined out, I started to write the actual words. Then it was a real back and forth process, with the words informing the illustration and vice versa. This is certainly different to the usual process when I’m illustrating someone else’s story, and I really loved the creative freedom it gave me to have full control over both aspects.

I’m fascinated by the process you used for The Vanishing Lake. How fun to be able to switch back and forth between writing and illustrating, and to have total control over the whole project.

4. Everything is different right now with COVID-19, but how will you celebrate the book birthday of The Vanishing Lake on April 20?

I actually have a few virtual events lined up with bookshops in the book’s birthday week, so that’s going to be lots of fun! I guess one of the silver linings of the pandemic is the emergence of virtual author events, so I’m looking forward to doing a few storytimes, drawalongs and Q&A sessions with bookshops and their customers. I would of course absolutely love to be doing something in-person in a bookshop, so hopefully when the world goes back to normal I’ll get the opportunity to do that for a future book. I have been trying to take the time to celebrate the good moments more and more this past year though, so I may have to raise a glass at home on publication day.

Sounds like the perfect combination of events to make the week very special! We have learned some new tricks and skills in the days of the pandemic, haven’t we?

5. I love the joyful imagination that is such a huge part of The Vanishing Lake. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity?

I definitely had (and still do I think) a vivid imagination as a child and used to draw my own stories so much. Growing up with natural wonders like Loughareema and the Giant’s Causeway on my doorstep maybe made me take them for granted, but I think I’ve now got a renewed appreciation for them now. And definitely the rugged cliffs, mountains and magical greens of the Irish landscape have an influence on my illustration style. As imagination is the centre of this story, it allowed me to keep pushing to come up with more extravagant stories for Grandad to tell.

Ooh, perhaps there will be a future picture book about the Giant’s Causeway! 😉 One of my bucket list items is visiting Ireland.

6. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a lot of picture books at the moment. I’ve got a few more coming out later this year and next year. And I’ve got a few middle grade covers on the go too. Lots of different projects happening at once, but that’s the way I like it. I like to hop between projects as it helps keep my imagination going and I don’t get too bogged down in one set of illustrations for months on end. I think I need that variation for my creativity.

So, you also work as a professional project juggler? LOL. I like to juggle writing projects as well. Like you said, it helps keep my imagination and creativity fresh.

7. Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

Perhaps the most exciting project I’m working on is my second author illustrated picture book, Dodos Aren’t Extinct, which I’m illustrating right now. That’ll be coming out in Spring 2022. Very exciting!

Congratulations! That is exciting! It sounds like another captivating story!

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit, Paddy! Best wishes on The Vanishing Lake and all of your other projects.

Readers, you can purchase your own copy of The Vanishing Lake by clicking the following links.

The Vanishing Lake links:

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-vanishing-lake-paddy-donnelly/1137974866

Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/books/the-vanishing-lake/9781953458032

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1953458033/

Paddy’s social links: 

Instagram: https://instagram.com/paddy

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paddydonnelly

Website: http://lefft.com

— Paddy

http://lefft.com / https://www.instagram.com/paddy/

Here are 3 ways to get your name in the hat to win a copy of The Vanishing Lake (US only). A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Tuesday, April 27.

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 The Vanishing Lake.

CONGRATULATIONS TO Janet Frenck Sheets! You won a copy of The Vanishing Lake!


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Drawn to Help: Children’s Books to the Rescue!

Check out this wonderful program Tara Lazar shared on her blog today. Kidlit authors and illustrators are visiting sick children in the hospital, sharing books, and giving art lessons. What a great way to help someone who is going through a tough time! Way to go!

Thank you, Tara for sharing this!

Click the link below to read more about Drawn to Help: Children’s Books to the Rescue!


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Book Report: Bandit the Cow Dog by Phil Mills Jr. #BookBirthday

Bandit the Cow Dog

Written by Phil Mills Jr.

Illustrated by Jeanne Conway

Mascot Books (June 2, 2020)

Happy Book Birthday to Bandit the Cow Dog by Phil Mills Jr.! Thank you, http://www.MascotBooks.com, for sending me a copy to review.

As a lover of horses and ranches (and having an unfulfilled lifelong dream of living on a ranch and raising horse), I loved reading this colorful picture book.

Set on a ranch in Wyoming, the story is told from the eyes of the retired Australian shepherd working dog, Bandit, and a young girl, Mary. Mary comes to visit her grandparents for the summer. Once on the ranch, Mary quickly learns she has daily responsibilities and chores. She even finds out that eggs do not have to be white and one must help out as a member of a family. All goes well until Mary forgets one essential rule on a ranch: always close and secure gates.

Bandit the Cow Dog is a fun read. I think young readers who enjoy animals, ranches, horses, and dogs will like this book. Happy Book Birthday!

What I Like About This Book:

  • I love the ranch setting
  • I love the animals – dogs, chickens, horses, and cows
  • I love how Mary has to accept responsibility for her actions, even though that is not an easy thing to do
  • I like how Mary has consequences to her actions
  • Horses!

More about Phil Mills Jr.

Amazon Blurb:

Spending the summer on her grandparents Wyoming ranch was a new and exciting opportunity for ten-year-old Mary Andrews. She lived in Denver, Colorado, and being around horses and cattle every day was a different experience. Having to do daily chores like gathering eggs and keeping an extra-close eye on her dog Princess was also new. She found it hard enough to just make her bed and keeping her clothes picked up.

But life took a dramatic turn for the young girl when she was given her first horse. Mary had never ridden before and there was a lot to learn. Thankfully, Bandit, the ranch cow dog, was around to watch over her. Bandit may have been retired, but he still liked herding chickens and trying to corral the ranch cats. Mary would soon learn having a horse was a lot different than having a dog. Along with such ownership came greater responsibilities. That would also mean learning to admit your mistakes, no matter how difficult, and then accepting the consequences, especially when Bandit knew the truth.