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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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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Book Review: Wheels of Change by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Wheels of Change

Written by Darlene Beck Jacobson

Illustrations by Melissa Moss

Cover and book design by Simon Stahl

Creston Books, 2014

Historical fiction for middle grade, here I come! Thanks to Kathy Temean and her blog Writing and Illustrating, I won a copy of Wheels of Change from author Darlene Beck Jacobson. Thank you both for introducing me to this fascinating trip back in time.

Twelve year old Emily loves spending time in the carriage-building shop, even though it is not appropriate for young ladies who should be spending their time inside learning how to sew, bake, clean, and care for a house. With a quick mind, sincere heart, and means-well actions, Emily seeks answers to why people act the way they do, often getting herself into trouble.

Set around the turn of the century (1890s to 1900s), Wheels of Change indeed focuses on the changes of that time period. From the plight of being female to the lingering after-effects of the abolition of slavery to the ever-moving-forward march of replacing horse and buggy with motorized vehicles, Jacobson does not shy away from history. The clash of changes factors is faced head-on, all through the eyes of Emily. A few facts are based on personal family history while the rest of the story springs from her creative mind.

Why I Loved This Book:

~the story is based on history and changes that cause struggles and disagreements for most people

~the time period is one about which I enjoy reading

~great writing and descriptions allowed me to “see” what was going on

~the emotions and the conflict of the story seemed to be what could have really taken place

~it was obvious that plenty of research went into the writing of this book

~LOVED the back matter and learning about the family connections to this story

~the book would be perfect for young readers to read as they learn about history (for both education and pleasure)

Notable Social Studies Trade Book 2015

Mighty Girl Pick 2015

Grateful American Book Prize Honorable Mention 2015

Amazon Blurb:

Racial intolerance, social change, and sweeping progress make 1908 Washington, D.C., a turbulent place to grow up in for 12-year-old Emily Soper. For Emily, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic, and she’s more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer than trying to conform to the proper expectations of young ladies. When Papa’s livelihood is threatened by racist neighbors and horsepower of a different sort, Emily faces changes she’d never imagined. Finding courage and resolve she didn’t know she had, Emily strives to save Papa’s business, even if it means going all the way to the White House.


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Book Review: The Chickens Are Coming! by Barbara Samuels

The Chickens Are Coming!

Written and illustrated by Barbara Samuels

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019

I was sitting in my she shed the other day and heard a nearby rooster crowing. Very nearby. Just a note: we do not have chickens OR roosters.

Though our neighbors do. So we often have feathered guests running around the pasture. But I’ve never heard the crowing this close.

I carefully tip-toed to the window and looked out. Sure enough, there was a handsome fellow and his girls right outside the door! They happily pecked and picked, enjoying free range exploration and snacking.

Sorry about the Eiffel Tower right in the middle of the photo…I didn’t see it until later.

They make me laugh, those chickens. Seeing them made me remember a picture book I had just read to my grandson, The Chickens Are Coming!.

This is such a fun picture book. A brother and sister who live in a large city see a sign about chickens needing a new home. Pretty soon they are the owners of a delightful group of hens, each with a name and personality. The story continues as the siblings hope for eggs, but no eggs are found.

Why I Like This Book:

~ the chickens have personalities

~ the story line is fun: discover chickens need a home, adopt the chickens, learn about chickens, try to help the chickens get ready to lay eggs, try to find eggs, try to find chickens

~ plenty of detailed and engaging illustrations – my first grader was captivated by all of the things he could see on the pages

~ chickens in the city!

~ chicken dance

~ free range eggs (a personal favorite of mine)

Feeling like a good chicken story or adopting a hen or three? The Chickens Are Coming! will give you plenty of good reading and/or help you learn what you need to do when your chickens arrive.


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Book Review: Milo’s Moonlight Mission by Kathleen M. Blasi and Petronela Dostalova

Milo’s Moonlight Mission

Written by Kathleen M. Blasi

Illustrated by Petronela Dostalova

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Thank you, Yeehoo Press, Kathleen M. Blasi, Petronela Dostalova, and Kathy Temean for sending me a copy of this fun, adorable picture book! I won a copy from Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. Two of my grands are really into outer space right now, so this book is perfect! My youngest grand just came home from her first day of kinder, and the coloring page? It was all about outer space.

Book Jacket Flap: “Outer space is there for exploring, and Captain Milo is ready for takeoff! If only he didn’t have to wait for his Second-in-Command . . .”

From the front cover, to the jacket flap, the inside pages, the illustrations, and the lovely story, there is nothing I don’t love about Milo and his urgent desire to head to outer space! I love that this story is based on an actual scientific event – the Leonid Meteor Storm – that occurs every November.

What I love about this book:

~ the enchanting story

~ the large, lovely, colorful, illustrations

~ the idea of Mom being Second-in-Command

~ The way Milo helps out so his dream becomes reality

~ the fun facts I learned about observing celestial events and the Leonid Meteor Storm (incidentally, and now I can’t remember who, but after I had read Milo’s Moonlight Mission, I was reading about a historical person, and his name was Leonid! I imagine his parents were interested in meteor storms just like Milo!)

~ the overall “package” of a captivating picture book, ready for repeated read-alouds

Milo’s Moonlight Mission is the perfect book for your budding astronomer or astronaut.

Amazon Blurb:

The most spectacular night skies are revealed when we plan for the ideal moment–with loved ones by our sides. This heartwarming tale is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts!


When the weather forecast predicts a middle-of-the-night meteor storm, Captain Milo wants desperately to witness it. But will his Second-in-Command have enough time to accomplish this important mission with him?


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Book Review: Squish, Squash, Squished by Rebecca Kraft Rector and Dana Wulfekotte

Squish, Squash, Squished

Written by Rebecca Kraft Rector

Illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021

As the oldest child in a family of 4 children and 2 parents, I can relate to being squished in the car. And squabbling and fighting about it, especially over who gets a window seat. (This was before the time of cell phones, electronic games, and movie viewing options many children have now. Back in the dark ages. We had a car. A station wagon car. With fold up bench seats in the way back, but that was usually full with the family dog and picnic lunch stuff.)

I digress.

I won a copy of Squish, Squash, Squished from Rebecca Kraft Rector through Kathy Temean’s blog, Writing and Illustrating. You can view the original post to learn more about Rebecca and Dana here. THANK YOU, Rebecca and Kathy!

Squish, Squash, Squished is such a delight to read! I loved the problem (squished in the back seat), the characters (adorable cuties with their no-nonsense mom who takes extreme-but fun-measures to stop the bickering), and the imaginative cast of characters who hop in for a ride. The words are just perfect with plenty of language and word-play, and the illustrations are the icing on the cake.

I suggest this book for anyone who has bickering children in the backseat, anyone who has children (or is a child), those who love fun word-play and stories, and creative minds who believe animals can do the things they do in this book.

Why I Love This Book:

~ told in the style of It Could Always Be Worse, the escalating drama is wonderful

~ I love the word-play and sing-song silliness

~ fun cast of characters, a mix of people and animals (love it)

~ adorable setting and the perfect illustrations to make this picture book of the magical sort

~ while not preaching about keeping it quiet in the backseat, readers will get the hint that it could always be worse . . .

Living in an RV, I sometimes drift into the theme of being squish, squash, squished, but I better hush-mush or my hubby might invite in some passers-by…


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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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Book Review: Nibbles, A Green Tale (RE: A Green Way to Get Rid of Dandelions)

Nibbles, A Green Tale

Written and illustrated by Charlotte Middleton

Marshall Cavendish Children, 2009

I have so many wonderful memories of the guinea pigs we loved during my years of teaching preschool. Our mama gave us hours of delight as we watched her lead her trail of babies around the room. Rustling plastic bags brought squeals demanding whichever “greens” we had brought. Both preschoolers and my family members loved snuggling and playing with these cuties.

Imagine my delight when I saw Nibbles, A Green Tale at the library! Nibbles is obviously a guinea pig, one who loves dandelions. With our current pasture-wide crop of dandelions, I couldn’t wait to read this picture book. If only I could borrow a city of dandelion-loving guinea pigs and let them camp out in the pasture for a week or two. That would take care of the clouds of white seeds.

Why I LOVE this book:

~ guinea pigs! Wheet, wheet!

~ guinea pigs who eat dandelions

~ guinea pigs wearing clothes!

~ a fun story of how one guinea pig rescued dandelions from becoming extinct

~ a green strategy to solve dandelion problems (though the sheer number of them needed to clear a pasture…)

~ adorable illustrations

~ wonderful story and characters

There is a sequel to this book, Nibbles: Another Green Tale. I can’t wait to track down a copy.


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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 Authors: The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales

The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales

Compiled by Bernice Seward

Seward Media, 2020

Hello, friends! I would like to introduce you to a fun new book of fairy tales. But these fairy tales are not what you would think. They have been torn-up, re-imagined, and fractured from the original stories we’ve heard all our lives. How exciting to read these “new” fairy tales in this delightful compilation of 5. One of my critique group partners, Beverly Warren, wrote one of the torn-up tales in The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales. Congratulations to all of the talented authors and illustrators.

Scroll down to meet the authors and read their individual answers to the questions I asked. Enjoy!

MEET THE AUTHORS

Bernice Seward compiled this collection of fairy tales. She wrote The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe

How do you know each other and how did this book come together?

Loreley: Most of us only know each other virtually as we live in different cities. We are members of SCBWI Inland Northwest and had all expressed an interest in creating an online critique group before COVID even began. Here we are! Bernice suggested we try a collaboration as we were all struggling with the COVID slump last summer.

Beverly: I met both Bernice and Michele at the SCBWI conference in September 2019. Apparently Loreley and Jess were there as well. We had the opportunity to sign up to join a critique group. Later we were contacted by the coordinator and put in a group of nine, I believe, which was then split in two. Personally, I had been thinking that I would like to write a fractured fairy tale and purchased Jane Yolen’s book on the subject. About two weeks later Bernice suggested that we do this project. 

Michele: I’m the odd author out here  The other four were members of an established critique group before this project came about. I am in a different critique group with Bernice and she invited me to join in on the collaboration. I know Bernice because I took a community education class on writing children’s picture books from her about 3 years ago. I happened to meet Beverly at the SCBWI Fall 2019 conference. She and I are in an online critique group. We are all members of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. (I have been asked to join with their critique group and I couldn’t be happier!) Bernice came up with the collaboration idea after listening to an SCBWI interview at the Summer Spectacular (over Zoom of course.) 

Michele Rietz wrote Hector and the Three Granny Goats

What was your inspiration for your torn-up tale?

Loreley: Several years ago, I had traveled to Europe to live, work, and heal my wounds from my divorce. I was only gone just over three years, but when I returned to The States, I felt like Rip Van Winkle who had fallen asleep and woken up in the future. There were (at that time) Blackberries, Bluetooths, and Blogs! I didn’t know what these things were. HDTVs were in everyone’s living room. The Bon Marche was gone! It was all very disorienting. So this experience inspired my story “Rita Van Winkle”. 

Beverly: Beauty and the Beast has been one of my favorite fairy tales for years. I loved the idea that a beasty person can be transformed through the love of another and that within an unattractive personality there are traits that can be found to love if one has the eyes to see. Also, years ago I was interested in learning about herbs, common herbs that can be used for various purposes including healing. 

Jessie: Recently I read Invisible Women Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez and Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. The concepts in these two books as well as ideas about the invisible biases we absorb from society were whirling around in my head when Bernice invited me to collaborate on this project. As I contemplated fairy tales, I thought of The Boy Who Cried Wolf and wondered, what if it was a girl, and what if she was telling the truth? Tara and the Wolf was born of that simple thought experiment.

Michele: As a child, I loved the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  I think it was the rhythmic “Trip, trap” that I liked the most.  (Definitely not the gruesome ending.  LOL!).  I started my version with three nanny goats, but they evolved into three granny goats.  I am a grandma of 10 myself, so I can totally get behind that change!  🙂  I also wanted a gentler troll in my story, and since dads often get a bad rap in media and society these days, I wanted him to be a strong (as in involved in his kids’ lives) father figure.  Each of the grannies represents something I myself am known to do.  I am ALWAYS happy to have an excuse to make cookies, I grow a garden every year and I love to do yoga and recently became a teacher at the studio I’ve attended for several years.

Bernice: The idea of designing a shoe house drew me to The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. And the fact that the original story included a giant clinched it. Then, as I was brainstorming for my torn-up tale, I thought it’d be fun to create a sort of “origin story” for a certain legendary cloud-dwelling giant.

Loreley Smith wrote Rita Van Winkle

Tell me about the illustrations.

Loreley: I am not an illustrator, so when Bernice suggested we each create our own illustrations, I was very apprehensive. I’ve become inspired to work with collage art more and improve my skills 🙂 

Beverly: Art has always come naturally to me. I’ve created a few collage pieces before, but mostly I work in other mediums.

Jessie: I come from a family of artistic people and assumed from the time I was a child that fine art was not one of my talents. It was something other people in my family were good at. I have tried to express creativity with sewing, baking and most often with writing. As I experimented with paint, shape and collage, I realized that the only thing stopping me from developing an illustrative talent was lack of belief in myself. It was incredibly empowering to make a physical picture from something that existed before only in my mind. While my illustration skills are still very rudimentary, the use of collage simplifies the process, allowing simple shapes to convey the image and the textures created by painted papers to elevate them and give further interest.

Michele: First of all, I have NEVER considered myself an artist, so this was a HUGE stretch for me. Bernice has taught me a lot over the years, so I felt I owed her a good effort. Learning to draw simple outlines (just google something like “Easy Goat Drawing”) was the start. She had me over to paint some papers for the collage illustrations and from there I took it one illustration at a time. Bernice also provided us with how-to videos she created. Those were very helpful and easy to follow. I am thrilled with how my illustrations turned out and I now consider myself a “Collage artist”.

My inspiration for my troll came from a wooden sculpture in Breckenridge, Colorado. My college freshman roommates and I get together every two years or so and on our last reunion, I talked them into finding it. It was amazing.

Jessie Quist wrote Tara and the Wolf

What surprises did you discover in the process of creating this book?

Loreley: I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the process of creating the illustrations. While it was a bit nerve racking, I found myself getting lost in the process. 

Beverly: We created the book quickly so the process was intensive, but it was enjoyable for us to do this project together. Also, I discovered as I did some research on the history of Beauty and the Beast that there lived a true Beauty who married a Beast in the 16th Century, in France. The beast was a man who had a condition called Hypertrichosis (werewolf syndrome). His body was covered with long dark hair all over. It is rare and is due to an abnormal 8th chromosome. The man was the property of the king of France. When the king died the Queen decided he should marry. She interviewed many young women and chose one with great beauty. The girl didn’t know about her groom’s appearance until their wedding day. Imagine her shock, but she grew to love him because of his winning personality. Together they had seven children.

Michele: I don’t think it was a surprise as much as confirmation of the importance of critique groups. We each read each other’s stories many times to help work out rough spots, kinks, etc. When I was being resistant to changing something in my story, one of the group called me to help me realize I really needed to “kill my darling”. My story is stronger for it and I’m glad she took initiative to do that. My illustrations coming together were definitely a surprise for me. (See question 3. 🙂 I also discovered that I like writing fractured fairy tales. I had dabbled in that genre a bit, but diving in and completing one was really fun.

Bernice: As a picture book writer (who strives to tell stories in 550 words or less), the thought of writing thousands of words is daunting for me. I was surprised that my first draft of The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe topped 1900 words. This gives me hope that fleshing out stories for chapter books will be a smoother transition than I’ve been anticipating.

Beverly Love Warren wrote Beau and the Belle Rose

What plans do you have for the future? Are there any other book projects in the making?

Loreley: I’m currently working on a picture book where my protagonist learns the importance of “leaving only footprints and taking only photos” when exploring nature. 

Beverly: We are continuing to meet as a group. We’ve only discussed briefly doing another project in the future and no plans have been formed yet. Currently I am illustrating a picture book for Clear Fork/Spork Publishing which should come out in the fall. Also, I’m revising a picture book and writing a middle grade novel. 

Jessie: I have two board books in the works as well as an illustration project commissioned by a friend. We haven’t formalized any plans for another joint publication, but I hope we will be creating more torn up tales together in the future.

Michele: Personally, I have a pet project in the works which involves using my grandchildren’s names in the illustrations. I have an illustrator working on it and we hope to be finished in the next month or so. I will self-publish that book. I also have countless manuscripts in various stages of completion. For the group, there really isn’t anything in the near future, but I have expressed a hope we’ll do another collaboration with this group. They are a wonderfully generous and creative group, and I have learned so much from them. We do plan to meet in person once the pandemic is past. We don’t know what that will look like, but we have all expressed a desire to do that.

Bernice: Currently, I’m working on a picture book about a bear who loses his hair after trying shampoo from a traveling salesman (fox).

Thank you, ladies, for sharing more about your lives and your process for writing The Girl Who Lived in a Shoe and other Torn-Up Tales.

You can read more about the authors and this fun fairy tale book at:

http://www.berniceseward.com/books/the-girl-who-lived-in-a-shoe-and-other-torn-up-tales/