Thursday, July 27, 2017

If you want to write kids’ books–read, read, READ! (with 6 of this summer's favourites)


What’s the best way to ensure that you’re writing kids’ books that are relevant to today’s readers? 

When I say readers, by the way, you can assume I also mean all the gatekeepers between you and your readers: editors, agents, publishers, and anyone else who gets to vet your book before it’s approved for publication.

And the best way to make sure you’re writing the books they want to see is… to READ kids’ books.  A LOT of kids’ books.

Now – just to be very, very clear here, I’m not telling you a) to read books in order to copy them, or b) to read books in order to write more marketable books.  You probably shouldn’t be thinking about marketability as you’re actually writing your book.

But reading what’s out there on the children’s-book shelves will give you an edge in a few ways, by helping you answer the following questions for yourself:

  • Who are the protagonists of kids’ books today?
  • What kind of situations do they find themselves in?
  • What’s the art like?
  • How wordy are they?  (hint: not very!!!)
  • What kind of vocabulary do they use?
  • What kinds of resolutions / messages do publishers seem to prefer?

Now, if you’re like me and you live in a non-English speaking country, all of this puts you at a distinct disadvantage.  And even if you live in a totally English-speaking country, there are a few reasons you might not have visited your local bookstore or library lately. 

For example, many children’s authors are older parents or grandparents – you may have read a lot of kids’ books at one point, like when your kids were younger.  You just haven’t checked out new books recently.  But why should you bother?  Classics are classics are classics, and what makes a book great doesn’t change from one generation to the next… right?


Even when it’s difficult, you must check out what kids’ books are out there, not just to scope out the competition but to make your own stories stronger and more contemporary-feeling.

Here’s one tip that I sent around to my local SCBWI chapter a few months ago:  search for current popular kids’ books on YouTube.  We had just had a Skype meeting with a publisher in L.A., so everybody was fired up about writing books for a U.S. audience, but many people in the crowd weren’t really sure what that entailed. 

Fortunately, there are MANY popular kids' books being read aloud by native English speakers on YouTube, including many of the books the agent had placed on her recommended-reading list for authors submitting to her. 

Wondering what books she suggested???  Here are the two books she mentioned most:  Llama Llama Misses Mama ( (along with all the other Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney!) and Dragons Love Tacos (  I'm betting that whoever can write the next book like those will get a sweet deal from her publishing company!

I’m very lucky to be in Toronto visiting family right now, so I took this opportunity to walk into my local library last week to scope out (aka “take home half of”) the kids’ picture-book section. 

Here’s my haul:


These are all fairly recent.  I’d heard of two of these beforehand and was psyched to see them in stock:  School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, and Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam by Fawzia Gilani-Williams, from Kar-Ben, the same publishing company that published my book Yossi & the Monkeys.

The first of these, School’s First Day of School, has been on my wish list

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Blog tour for SCRIBBLE & AUTHOR! by Miri Leshem-Pelly


I am so, so thrilled to be hosting today’s stop on the month-long blog tour for my real-life friend and faithful critique group companion Miri Leshem-Pelly… and her new book, Scribble & Author (Kane-Miller Picture Books, 2017)!  Check out yesterday’s stop at PUYB Virtual Book Club – as well as tomorrow’s stop, when it’s posted, at Interview at Literarily Speaking.  So much fun!!!

As children’s writers all know, though, the book isn’t really about us, the writers.  It’s about our CHARACTERS.  And that’s why, for today’s blog tour stop, I decided to host an interview not with Miri herself (check out this interview for that, or Miri’s website, if you’re interested!) – but with her character, Scribble!

Why did I want to talk to Scribble?  Well, take a look and see for yourself:


Isn’t she adorable???  Just so sweet and full of spunk.  Miri is an author/illustrator – so she gets to create her own characters.  I’m so jealous.  But it’s not enough to CREATE a character – as writers we know that we have to put our character in fascinating situations. 

Here's what the book is about, in a sweet little nutshell (from the publisher):

In Scribble & Author, Scribble's journey starts on a peaceful shore called THE BEGINNING, continues to the rough, adventurous MIDDLE, and leads finally to the gate of THE ENDING, but it's not at all what Scribble expected...
Scribble is a scribble and Author is an author, but who really gets to tell the tale?
An innovative picture book about finding your own voice, making your own decisions, and writing your own story.

Most importantly, as Scribble learns in the book, whether we’re illustrating our story or not, we also have to CHALLENGE our characters – even though we love them, we have to put them in plenty of danger and then let them find their own way out.

All of which is to say, it’s not easy being a character in a children’s picture book – especially given that element of danger.  So naturally, Scribble had lots and lots to say about her own adventures and being a character in this amazing book. 

Let’s listen in:

WKB: Hey, Scribble. It’s great to meet you! How does it feel now that you’re getting all this attention?

Thank you! Finally somebody’s paying attention to me – the main character! You know, the name of the book is Scribble & Author, not Author & Scribble, but for some reason, all other bloggers chose to interview the author instead of me!

WKB: Can you tell me how you first met Author?

When I first opened my eyes I saw Author, right there in front of me. I was very excited to discover that I was inside a book. But let me tell you something - I’m the only one who gets to see Author. Readers don’t see Author. They can read what Author says but they don’t really know who Author is: a man or a woman? Maybe a boy or a girl? I’m the only one who knows. And I’m not telling! It’s my secret.


WKB: Tell us the truth. Does it tickle when you’re being drawn?

You bet it is. I love being