Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Twenty years PLUS: Mini-interview with Barbara Reid

Read Me a Book, by Barbara Reid

About a million years ago, or eight, as part of an early-years literacy program, our family got a free copy of a wonderful book called, Read Me a Book (how meta is that?!).

The writer’s name was a source of endless hilarity to my daughter as she grew up – Barbara Reid. Perhaps because of that, the name stuck with us, and we started seeing her books everywhere.

Perhaps that’s just because she’s written and illustrated so many other books, all in her trademark Plasticine style. (I guess there’s something about this kind of medium; one of my favourite interviews so far for this blog has been with Jo Litchfield, who works in a rather similar style using Fimo models.)


All my kids and I have been fascinated over the years, through many of Barbara’s books, by the way her illustrations are rich with detail, often odd little details you only notice on the third (or thirtieth) reading.


(from Picture a Tree, 2013)

The Interview

I was honoured to have had a chance to chat with Barbara recently

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

‘Tis the season – write holiday books that don’t spell HUMBUG (Part 2 of 2)

happy holidays!What the heck is a holiday-books post doing here in April? And not just any post – this is Part 2 of a 2-part series! (Click here to read Part 1 first.)

Well, for one thing, not all of us celebrate our main holiday in December. Plus, if you’re thinking of writing or wrapping a book aimed at the December holiday season, April is actually a great time to be planning it.

In Part 1, we looked at four big Do’s and Don’ts to help get you on the right track.  Now, we’re going to look at one final question you need to ask yourself before you sit down to write – who are you writing for???

buy Rashad's Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, by Lisa Bullard

Finding your audience

Is your book aimed at kids and families who celebrate the holiday, or those who don’t?

As a religious Jew, I can’t tell you how many Chanukah books I decided were ultimately inappropriate for my family because they explain too much.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Writing to change the world.

imageWhile I’m off enjoying Passover with my family, here’s another guest post, this one by an anonymous mom with strong feelings about the future direction of children’s books. :-)

In the past several years especially, the realm of children’s literature has made leaps and bounds in terms of diversity and promoting coexistence amongst our differences. But there are still topics that could certainly see a little more circulation in terms of popular children and adolescent publications, particularly when it comes to truly teaching youngsters about the dissimilarities of society.

Which of these do you think you could write about – and make a difference in kids’ lives?  (not to mention the world!)


Although picture books are not limited in portraying characters that need to use a wheelchair or crutches, few venture further into the territories of physical, emotional, or intellectual disabilities.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Coming soon… interviews with Andrea Beaty, Barbara Reid.

imageI don’t usually give you a heads-up about what’s coming down the pike, but I just can’t help it.  These two are just TOO great not to mention!

Who’s coming?


  • imageBarbara Reid, writer and illustrator of Picture a Tree, The Subway Mouse, Fox Walked Alone, and many, many more.  As a Canadian, I take full credit for Barbara Reid and consider her illustrations (and stories) a national treasure we have given to the world.  I hope that doesn’t sound condescending; I read tons of other kidlit, but there will always be a special place in my heart for Canadians.

I’ve already finished the (mini-)interviews with both of these writers, but I’m too wrapped up in the holiday of Passover at the moment to possibly do them justice.  So in the meantime, click through, buy the books, get reading, and you’ll be all geared up for their interviews – very very soon.

image(Within the next couple of weeks.) 

We also have a new(ish) writer coming up, Stacy Nyikos, whose new book, Toby, will be released in June.  I’ll be reviewing the book and possibly interviewing Stacy as part of the book’s “blog tour.”

Planning little goodies like this is definitely the fun part of blogging.  Now to make it all happen… somehow!  :-) Writers’ Workshop: Judo Juan

image  Every once in a while, people email asking if I’ll take a look at their story.  I thought it might be fun to run this as an occasional blog feature, so I asked one writer’s permission to have his story and my suggestions appear here on this site.

Rick was gracious enough to allow me to share his work, and I’d be thrilled if any of you would like to offer your comments as well in the Comments section below.

It’s an interesting concept, of a boy who starts taking martial arts, but the true potential of this story doesn’t shine through.

Martial arts is a creative, fun way to channel aggressive impulses.  Lots of parents, teachers and principals know that.  It would be a fun idea to create a kids’ book that would share this idea with children on their own level and perhaps make them eager to try martial arts for themselves.

I identified four factors that could really help this story succeed.

  • Punching up the language – careful line editing
  • The dojo as a whole new world – making the main character’s entrance into the new world of martial arts more dramatic
  • Adding a longer middle – the story needs to be longer, with more action
  • Finding the story / character arc – more emphasis on the takeaway

Punching up the language

Unfortunately, in his first draft, the writer does a lot of telling, not showing, and the language not only

Monday, April 14, 2014

Three ways to add real science to a picture book without putting kids to sleep


Guest post by an anonymous mom who just happens to be a neuroscientist.

Kids have a short attention span, and when it comes to factual stuff like science, it can sometimes be a challenge to truly engage their busy brains without inducing boredom. In order to keep a child’s attention, authors of children’s books must incorporate interesting and colorful content, and it always helps if humor is involved. Presenting the facts does not limit a writer’s creativity, nor should it ever prevent them from being silly – oftentimes a key characteristic for attracting and fascinating children.

Here’s How #1:  Color

Applying color does not necessarily need to be interpreted literally,

Saturday, April 12, 2014

‘Tis the season – write holiday books that don’t spell HUMBUG (Part 1 of 2)

happy holidays! What the heck is a holiday-books post doing here in April? And not just any post – this is Part 1 of a 2-part series. (Click here to read Part 2.)

Well, for one thing, not all of us celebrate our main holiday in December. Plus, if you’re thinking of writing or wrapping up a book aimed at the December holiday season, April is actually a great time to be planning it.

Certainly, when you’re in the thick of holiday excitement is NOT the time to think you can take time out to write your best work.

Since I myself have a major holiday coming up in 2 days, I have been procrastinating – big time. And you, my friends, are the big, big winners.

Here, in Part 1 of this 2-part series on “Writing Kids’ Holiday Books,” are some quick Do’s and Don’ts to help you get those holiday kids’-book juices flowing.

buy Sammy Spider's First Passover

DO get fired up with holiday excitement

Figure out what you love the most about the holiday you’re writing about… and then capture that excitement on paper. (Well, monitor – but you know what I mean.)

Frankly, I’ve seen a lot of bad kids’ holiday books out there, many of them self-published (hint: