Friday Linky List

Happily Ever After is Overrated by Justine Musk at Tribal Writer. "Fairy tales were not about true love. They were about transformation."

At Rope Of Silicon via PW, First Look at "The Giver" Featuring Jeff Bridges and Brenton Thwaites - woosie!

At The Book Beacon, "10 Things You Didn't Know About Becoming a Published Author" by Kim Baccellia.

Keeping it real at Whatever - All Alone During Couples Skate: Every Award-Winning Book Sucks (For Someone)

"What's So Wrong With Clichés? This." By Janice Hardy at The Other Side of the Story. I had to overcome this issue, so I can especially relate!

At The Atlantic (thanks to Vicky Alvear Shecter): The 8 Habits of Highly Successful Young-Adult Fiction Authors - sharing strategies for crafting authentic, relatable teen characters.

Political Rivals Find Common Ground Over Common Core at NPR. It would seem we're still teaching to the test rather than to the individual children.

At Cynsations: An Open Love Note to Debut Authors About Hurtful Online Reviews. Sound advice. via Cynsations: "Everything I Know About Storytelling... I learned from soap operas" by Rosie Genova

THE BEAR'S SONG by Benjamin Chaud - GIVEAWAY!

I wasn't able to get an interview on this one as Benjamin Chaud is French. But I still had to share this beautiful book with you, republished in English in the US by Chronicle Books. It's called THE BEAR'S SONG. Along with being a little bit like WHERE'S WALDO, and a little bit like a sweet bedtime read, the artwork is stunning and will keep you staring for hours! (I like the original French cover too, don't you?)

(Click this image to see it larger in a new window.)

Papa Bear and Little Bear are supposed to be hibernating. But Little Bear is too wiggly and takes off after a honey bee.

(Click this image to see it larger in a new window.)

It leads him into the city and into an opera house (of course).

Where Papa Bear sings a lullaby to find his son. (And scares the bejeezers out of everybody else there.)

Lucky us, Chronicle is giving away one free copy of THE BEAR'S SONG to one of my lucky commenters! (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) Enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hollins University's new MFA guest post at Cynsations

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations, where I talked about the new MFA in Writing AND Illustrating Children's Books at Hollins University - the first and only one in the country! I have the honor of teaching Design in both the new program and the Certificate in Children's Book Illustration, and I can't recommend the programs enough. CLICK HERE to go read more!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Bundle up!

     Brrrrrr! With all this talk about Polar Vortexes and such - I hope you're bundled up tightly this winter! Stay warm everybody!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.

ALA Awards!!!!!

The American Library Association announced the Youth Media Awards this morning! (This is like the Oscars for us children's book folks.) The biggies are as follows:

Schneider Family Book Awards
Best Young Children's Book: A SPLASH OF RED, written by Jen Bryant illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Knopf)
Best Middle Grade Book: HANDBOOK FOR DRAGON SLAYERS by Merrie Haskell (HarperCollins)
Best Teen Book: ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein (Disney-Hyperion)

Stonewall Book Award (LGBT)
3 Honor Books:
BETTER NATE THAN EVER by Tim Federle (S&S); BRANDED BY THE PINK TRIANGLE by Ken Setterington (2nd Story Press); TWO BOYS KISSING by David Levithan (Knopf/RH)
BEAUTIFUL MUSIC FOR UGLY CHILDREN by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (Llewellyn/Flux)
FAT ANGIE by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (Candlewick)

Coretta Scott King Book Awards (AA authors/illustrators)
Coretta Scott King~Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award:
Patricia and Frederick McKissack
New Talent Award: WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (winner)
Illustrator Honor: NELSON MANDELA illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Katherine Tegan Books)
Illustrator Winner: KNOCK KNOCK illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little Brown)
Author Honor Books: MARCH, BOOK ONE by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin (Top Shelf); DARIUS & TWIG by Walter Dean Myers (HarperCollins); WORDS WITH WINGS by Nikki Grimes (Wordsong)
Author Winner:
P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia (HarperCollins)

Alex Awards (Teen Readers)
Margaret A. Edwards Award: Marcus Zusak
William C. Morris Award:
Winner: CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn (St. Martin's Press)
YALSA Award in Non-fiction:
Winner: THE NAZI HUNTERS by Neal Bascomb (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)

Michael L. Printz Award
4 Honor Books: ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell; KINGDOM OF LITTLE WOUNDS by Susann Cokal; MAGGOT MOON by Sally Gardner; NAVIGATING EARLY by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte/RH)
MIDWINTER BLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan)

Pura Belpré Award (Latina)
3 Honor books for illustration: MARIA HAD A LITTLE LLAMA illustrated by Angela Dominguez; TITO PUENTE illustrated by Rafael Lopez; PANCHO RABBIT AND THE COYOTE illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
NINO WRESTLES THE WORLD by Yuyi Morales (Roaring Brook Press)
3 Honor Books for text: THE LIGHTNING DREAMER by Margarita Engle; THE LIVING by Matt de la Pena; PONCHO RABBIT AND THE COYOTE by Duncan Tonatiuh
Winner: YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS by Meg Medina (Candlewick)

The Odyssey Award (Audio Books)
Winner: SCOWLER by Daniel Kraus (RH/Listening Library)

May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award
To be delivered by Brian Selznick

Mildred L. Batchelder Award (foreign language)
3 Honors: THE BATHING COSTUME (Enchanted Lion Books); MY FATHER'S ARMS ARE A BOAT (Enchanted Lion Books); THE WAR WITHIN THESE WALLS (Eerdmans BFYR)
Winner: MISTER ORANGE by Truus Matti (Enchanted Lion Books)

Robert F. Sibert Medal (informational books)
Winner: PARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO written by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, illustrated by Susan L. Roth (Lee & Low)

Andrew Carnegie Medal (video production)

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award (beginning readers)
3 Honors: BALL by Mary Sullivan; A BIG GUY TOOK MY BALL! by Mo Willems; PENNY AND HER MARBLE by Kevin Henkes
Winner: THE WATERMELON SEED by Greg Pizzoli (Disney-Hyperion)

And the biggest awards of all... drum roll please...
Randolph Caldecott Medal (best illustrated)
3 Honors: JOURNEY by Aaron Becker; FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO by Molly Idle; MR. WUFFLES by David Wiesner
Winner: LOCOMOTIVE by Brian Floca (Atheneum)

John Newbery Medal (most distinguished book for children)
4 Honors: DOLL BONES by Holly Black; THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER by Kevin Henkes; ONE CAME HOME by Amy Timberlake; PAPERBOY by Vince Vawter
Winner: FLORA & ULYSSES by Kate DiCamillo!

Two dear friends are winners and I'd like to give them a shout-out especially!
Molly Idle for the Caldecott Honor Winning FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO, who I interviewed HERE!
Amy Timberlake for the Newbery Honor Winning ONE CAME HOME who I interviewed HERE!!!!

Online Kids' Pines Catalog!

When we lived in the north Georgia mountains, our sweet little Fannin County Library often had to order books through the Pines system to get them in for me. Most of the libraries in the Appalachians had to lean on that system. Needless to say, I became a huge fan. So when David Baker, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships for the Georgia Public Library Service asked me to help spread the word about the new ONLINE KIDS' PINES CATALOGUE, of course I said YES!
The catalog will be used at more than 275 participating public libraries around the state.

PINES — short for Public Information Network for Electronic Services — is the library lending network that offers Georgia citizens a shared catalog of 10.6 million items, accessible with a single library card that is welcomed in all member libraries. Now boasting nearly 3 million registered cardholders, PINES is a national leader in library cooperation and resource sharing.

The Kids’ PINES Catalog has a streamlined, more colorful and child-friendly design than the main PINES online catalog. Only those 350,000-plus books, DVDs, CDs and other items that have been cataloged in PINES as children's materials will show up in search results.

The main page features preset search buttons for popular and season-specific subjects, such as dinosaurs, princesses, award-winning books and Valentine's Day. It also offers a link to a Dewey Decimal System chart showing the locations of some of the most popular nonfiction areas — such as mythology, science fair projects, pets and magic tricks — that are of interest to children. From the basic search on the catalog’s main screen, children and parents can narrow search results to a specific library and/or to three specific age groups: preschool, primary or tween.

The Kids’ PINES Catalog features GPLS-commissioned illustrations by noted Georgia children's book illustrator Michael P. White, best known for his work on the popular “Library Dragon” books. The dedicated catalog’s Web address is

This is part of a massive recent upgrade and users may notice new accessibility via smartphones and mobile devices, as well as the ability to browse the catalog by author, subject and genre headings.

So all you Georgia readers - you are lucky, lucky, lucky!!!!!!!

This 16th Century Book Can Be Read Six Ways

From Colossal (where you'll want to see the animated GIF in action) - this very cool book which can be read six ways is an example of dos-a-dos binding. This one was printed in Germany and resides at the National Library of Sweden. Groovy!

Friday Linky List

What's the most profitable price for an ebook? at boing boing

So, apparently creators of content for children haven't always been afraid of cow udders: Milky The Marvelous Milking Cow toy (1977) at boingboing.

The ALA Children's book awards will be announced Monday morning and you can be there live - via the internet. Go to

For pre-ALA show entertainment, Librarian extrordinaires Betsy Bird and Lori Ess will be on Google Hangout. CLICK HERE for more informatin at School Library Journal.

Authors: Where You Link Is Important from Josie Leavitt at PW ShelfTalker - link to Indies first!

From Flavorwire via PW Children's Bookshelf, 25 YA Novels Everyone - Even Adults - Should Read. And I haven't read three of them! Must remedy...


Even though we don't get the white, fluffy stuff in Georgia (USA), it's still how I picture winter in my mind - just like in Emma Dodd's new FOREVER about the love of a mama polar bear for her cub.
      FOREVER is such a sweet statement, it will make a lovely bedtime read. I'm thrilled that Emma is stopping by to tell us about her new book...

Q. Hi Emma, Congratulations on yet another gorgeous book no parent should be without! I adore the frosty color palette. How do your stories come to you, images first or text?
A. Thank you so much! The stories come to me in words first and then I chose an animal family that suits the text.

Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Q. Your stories seem to be simple expressions of love. How did you develop your writing style?
A. I have been illustrating for 20 years but only started writing 9 years ago when my daughter was born. I showed my first efforts to my friend and fellow author/illustrator, Caroline Jayne Church. She suggested I took out all the words that were not essential. It was quite a difficult process, but it worked, and I have been using that method ever since. Thanks Caroline!
      The expressions of love, as you put it so beautifully, come very easily to me. I just have to look at my own two children, now 11 and 9 years old, and think how I feel about them, and the words pop into my head.

Q. On the same note, your characters are so round and huggable looking. How did you develop your illustration style?
A. That is an interesting question. I think we all draw ourselves to a certain extent. So, while I'm not sure I'm exactly round and huggable, I do have quite a round face.
      Also I studied graphic design before I specialised in illustration, and I think that informs the simplicity of my style.

Q. Your line quality is quite unique too. Do you work small and blow images up to get that texture? (Basically, HOW do you DO that!?)
A. When I was a student, my favorite drawing tool was a chopstick dipped in ink. It gave a wonderful, fluid, chunky line. I now work on a computer, but the line work is still created with pen and ink and then scanned in. And, yes, how did you guess? I do work very small; most of my original drawings are only about one inch tall. Shhhh... don't give away my trade secrets!

Q. Do you design out your books, choosing color palettes and foil printing before you begin drawing?
A. I have a strong mental image of what I want to create before I begin drawing. I also tend to choose animals that live in environments that lend themselves to the foil treatment, ie.icy, or watery, or sunny.

Q. Speaking of the foil printing - I know that's expensive for a publisher to do. And yet you have enormous swaths of silver foil representing water and snowflakes and the landscape. Does your publisher (Templar/Candlewick) just trust you on decisions like that?
A. They do seem to trust me, luckily. I am given some small restrictions but the publishers are very accommodating. We work very closely together to get the best effect. Thank you Templar/Candlewick! Interestingly, I believe the large areas of foil are no more expensive to do than the tiny subtle ones.

Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.
Q. I also love the scene with the aurora borealis. It's a breathtaking spread. How long did that take?
A. Thank you! I'm really fond of that spread too. It was quite difficult to portray something as enormous and breathtaking as the aurora borealis and it took me a while to work out how best to do it. I found by making the polar bear characters very small, it really emphasized the scale of the northern lights. It was also a great excuse for a splash of colour in the muted snowy landscape.

Q. I'd love some background on how you broke into children's books and what your average work flow is like.
A. My parents were both Textile Designers, so I grew up in a house full of drawing and creativity. I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind. I went to Central Saint Martin's College of Art in London and I studied Graphic Design, only changing to Illustration at a fairly late stage when I realised that drawing was my true passion. I think the graphic design course has really helped and informed my work, especially when it comes to children's books. When I left college, I worked freelance for various magazines and newspapers and even did some advertising work. Finally I persuaded a publisher to commission me to illustrate a children's book. After that, I was able to get an agent; my wonderful agent and friend, Eunice McMullen. She has advised and steered me brilliantly, and I owe a huge amount to her. When you first leave college, people in the industry are very generous with their time and advice. I found that listening carefully to advice and not giving up too easily at the beginning was essential.

Q. Will you be doing anything special to celebrate the release of FOREVER? We'd love to hear!
A. I always read my new books to my children, even though they are really quite grown up now, and I put two pristine copies safely away so that they both have a full set of my work in the future. Who knows, maybe one day in the future they will read them to my grandchildren!

Congratulations again and thanks for stopping by!
A. Thank you for having me! It's been a real pleasure.

Templar/Candlewick is kindly giving away a free copy of FOREVER to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) Enter below.
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FOREVER. Copyright © 2013 by Emma Dodd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Templar Publishing, United Kingdom.

Durham Heritage Coast - Guest post by Susan Gates - GIVEAWAY!

One of the messages in my new novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, is the impact one person can have on the environment. So, I LOVE this instance of GOOD news about the Durham Heritage Coast shared by guest poster and prolific author, Susan Gates (a.k.a. S.P.Gates) after reading ABOWS. (Remember when she dropped by to tell us about THE MONSTER IN THE MUDBALL?) Take it away Susan!


     When I read Elizabeth’s great new novel, “A Bird On Water Street,” about copper mining in the Appalachians, she was surprised when I said it really resonated with me, even though I live on the other side of the Atlantic in County Durham in Northern England. She asked me to tell you the story of our “Coppertown.” So here it is:
      This story is about coal, not copper. But like Elizabeth’s book, it’s about environmental pollution caused by mining. County Durham has a strong tradition of mining. Whole communities grew up around the mines, and fathers followed sons down “the pit”. It was expected. But my story is about 6 pits on a 12 mile stretch of coast near where I live. And what happened in 1984 when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wanted to close them down.
      If you want to see how bad the pollution was before the pits stopped working, then look at the first few scenes of “Alien 3,” when Ripley’s ship crash-lands on a poisoned prison planet where nothing grows. That was filmed on this stretch of coastland (on Blast Beach to be precise) where the spoil from 6 deep mines had been dumped for a hundred years. It was a blackened, sterile, hellish landscape with nothing green anywhere and no birds or flowers or animals.
      In 1984, the union called the miners out on strike. There was war in the coalfields. It lasted a year and was bitter and violent. Brother turned against brother, neighbour against neighbour. There was violence between pickets and scabs, and running street battles with riot police on horses (see the film “Billy Elliot”). Three men died. The miners were treated like terrorists and called “the enemy within.” With no wages coming in, soup kitchens were set up so families didn’t starve. In the end, the miners lost; the pits were closed. Mining communities were broken up, villages left to rot. There was widespread unemployment which lasts in those ex-mining communities to this day. But, if anything good could come out of this, one thing did. Amazingly, this stretch of blighted coast line was resurrected in a massive clean-up programme called “Turning the Tide” which finally finished in 2002. As in Elizabeth’s book, nature is slowly returning! The coastline won a “Natural Beauty Award.” It was runner–up for the “most transformed landscape in Europe.”
      One day last year, when my husband and I were walking along these cliffs, we came across an old man sitting looking at the restored coastline and crying. He had been a miner in one of the pits; been down there, he said, all his working life until it closed. And he was crying, he said, because back in those days, he “could never imagine that it could be this beautiful.”
      CLICK HERE to see photos of the “Turning the Tide” coastline (taken by my husband Phil, a naturalist and wildlife photographer).
      The project to do this was called Project Neptune. You can watch a short video by the volunteers who helped clean it up here:

      And read Elizabeth’s book “A Bird On Water Street” to see the many surprising similarities between the story of Coppertown and a coal mining coastline in Northern England!
Click for Susan's Blog
Susan's Facebook page
Susan's Pinterest page with ALL her titles!

Here is the wonderful blurb Susan wrote for A BIRD ON WATER STREET:
" 'A Bird on Water Street' is a warm-hearted, lovingly researched story, full of rich detail. Thirteen year old Jack Hicks, who wants to bring the forest back to his home town, blighted by copper mining, is a truly engaging narrator."

GIVEAWAY! I am happy to give away a free e-version of A BIRD ON WATER STREET to one of my commenters. ABOWS is available via Kindle, iTunes, and will come soon to Nook, so I'll need to know which one you prefer. The winner will be chosen in a week. Enter below. (Must live in the US or Canada to be eligible.)
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Coloring Page Tuesday - Winter Dove

A special edition of Coloring Page Tuesdays and e's news went out today with BIG NEWS about my new historical fiction mid-grade A BIRD ON WATER STREET. CLICK HERE to go see.
     In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the release of my book, I give you a winter dove of peace. May she fly high and true.
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

my debut historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET, available NOW in eversions! Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.

A BIRD ON WATER STREET - now available as ebook!!!!!!!!!

OMG! OMG! OMG! A BIRD ON WATER STREET will be available in print in May, but it is available NOW on Kindle and iOS!!!!! So, if you can't wait (I hope you can't wait!), I will send you a signed bookmark if you read NOW and leave a review on Amazon!!!!! (Just email/message me at elizabeth at dulemba dot com after you leave your review.)
     I need to create BUZZZZZZZZ around my first, shiny, debut novel!!!!! Can you help dear followers?
      Click here for the Kindle version
      Click here for the iTunes version
Big fuzzy hugs and kisses in advance from meeeeeeeeee, squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

I'm featured in the SIBA newsletter!!!

SIBA - the Southern Independent Booksellers Association has a newsletter called "Lady Banks' Commonplace Book" written by Nicki Leone. And recently I was featured in a big way in the newsletter, celebrating my forthcoming historical fiction mid-grade, A BIRD ON WATER STREET. What an honor! Why now? Because I'm starting to line up speaking engagements, school visits, and conference appearances NOW for the book's print release this May! Wahoooooo! (Click on the banner to see the feature in the newsletter!)

Friday Linky List

There's a new twitter page which lists requests for artists/creatives for 'the exposure' (in other words - for free). It's a long joke in our industry - people can die of exposure. For Exposure

Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales Come To Life In Eerie Photography Project at HuffPost via PW Children's Bookshelf

OMG - The must-have kidlit manicures of 2014 at marjorieingall via PW Children's Bookshelf. Get your geeked-out nails on!

Wonderful conversation between Jon Klassen and Chris Raschka over at 100 Scope Notes: A Caldecott Conversation

If you're an illustrator and you don't follow David Opie's blog, you should. He often posts helpful advice like in this latest one: "Dozer" Character Design.

Interesting interview with illustrator Melissa Sweet on the creation of LITTLE RED WRITING. Good follow up to my own interview, which you can find HERE.

Fascinating Numbers About Children's Book Sales at the SCBWI blog via Publishers Marketplace.

Scientists Find Secret to Writing a Best-Selling Novel at Telegraph via PW. Supposedly it's 84% accurate!

Did you know that Ira Glass of This American Life did a series on middle schoolers? Want a peek into the brains of mid-grade readers? Here's your chance!

Volunteerism is a big part of SCBWI, so I found this article at Tribal Writer especially relevant: Service is and act of leadership: 7 reasons why 'serving' is different from 'pleasing'

HOW TO TRAIN A TRAIN by Jason Carter Eaton and John Rocco - GIVEAWAY!

HOW TO TRAIN A TRAIN written by Jason Carter Eaton and illustrated by John Rocco reads like such a simple idea - a 'how to' book for acquiring and training a... not a puppy, but a TRAIN! It's a wonder nobody came up with the twist on the classic theme before. Of course, not just anybody could pull off such a seemingly simple idea. (And that's the beauty of really good picture books, they make complicated ideas appear simple.) It's the marriage of Jason's idea and John's execution that makes this story work GLORIOUSLY. I'm thrilled to have them both here today...

Q. Jason, I love the twist in HOW TO TRAIN A TRAIN. How did the story come to you?
A. I really wish I could take credit for it. But it was actually my son, Milo. He was about 3 at the time, and he turned to me one day and said he wanted a pet train. My toupee flew up about a foot, I gave him a hug, handed him to my wife, and then dove into my office to write it.

Q. Both of you - the dry wit of the story working against the outrageous visuals help make this book work so beautifully. Did you communicate during its creation or was it an achievement of separate brilliance?
Jason: That’s a very politely loaded question. Candlewick actually encouraged me to take all the moisture out of my wit. And John was already dressed outrageously, so translating that to his art was a relatively simple step.
John: I guess I never saw the illustrations as outrageous. I tried to capture what I saw in my head, and maybe in my head I truly believe that you CAN go out and Train a Train. But we did not communicate directly during the creation, so…yeah…separate brilliance.

Q. Jason, was your manuscript chocked full of illustration notes? And how did you feel when you saw the art for the first time?
Jason: Honestly, it was more notes than text. I’m extremely controlling and I told John to draw everything a very specific way. Everything.
John: Here is a picture of how I made use of Jason’s notes. Actually the manuscript I received was devoid of any notes. I guess Candlewick wanted to see what I would come up with first. I still haven’t seen any notes.

Q. John, when you received the manuscript, what was your initial reaction?
A. Actually, my studio mate, Brian Floca was four years into his book Locomotive, and so my first instinct was to ask him if I too, could do a train book. I didn’t want to jump on his tracks, so to speak. Luckily he thought it was a great idea! When I read the manuscript I loved the whole premise of a “How To” book on Trains that took itself so seriously.

Q. John, these were some tricky perspectives to pull off. How long did these illustrations take and what is your method?
A. When I am creating the artwork I usually start off in pencil and do a complete graphite tonal drawing, from there I scan it in and paint digitally in photoshop. During that process I will add stains and textures to make sure those trains looked like they had some miles on them. I will normally spend 10-15 hours on the drawing and another 5-8 hours on the painting depending on the complexity of it. As far as perspective goes, I liked using extreme camera angles when it enhances the idea of the image. (Like the nervous train going over the wooden bridge.) I never try too hard to make the perspective perfect, because I find that when it is perfect it just looks a little cold and dead. Bad drawing can give an illustration some life, if you know what I mean.

Q. Jason, although you have an extensive writing background, this is only your second picture book. What are the particular challenges for you on creating picture books?
A. Words. There are so many of them and I love them all! But you just can’t fit so many of them in. My first book, The Day My Runny Nose Ran Away, in hindsight, could have half the words taken out and it would have been twice as good. It took me awhile to realize that less is more in picture books. One day, though, I’m totally gonna do a retelling of the Dictionary, and then I’ll finally get my wish.

Q. John, you're so good at laying out the design of books in interesting ways. How do you work that out?
A. You’re too kind. My method is to constantly look at all the pages at once laid out on a big spreadsheet in the computer or printed out and taped to the wall. I do this constantly from beginning to end, and it really helps seeing the balance of things. I try to create a balance of full-page bleeds, a page of spots, use of negative space and other visual designs to create interesting transitions from page to page. I will also do thumbnails at the very beginning just using big shapes on the page to indicate illustration. I work this same method with color to make sure that is well balanced.

Q. Both of you - I love sharing paths to publication with my readers. What were yours?
Jason: This book was especially tricky. I originally wrote it in 2008, and it was even dryer. Almost clinically so. The voice was similar to that old Monty Python sketch, “How Not to Be Seen.” It made me laugh, but I can’t imagine it would have been something kids would appreciate. It took about two years before I figured out the right voice. The problem then became Marketing & Sales. Every publishing house—and I mean every single one—passed on it because the sales people thought the humor was too sophisticated for the target audience, which they believed was 3-year-olds. Candlewick was the only one who truly saw the potential, and I worked really hard with my editor, Mary Lee Donovan, to balance the humor that adults would appreciate with the sweetness and heart that kids need. And ultimately, I think we’ve seen that kids a lot older than 3 still enjoy the book, even though they may not still be in that “train phase” because we didn’t dumb it down.
John: I am not sure if you mean “my very first book deal” or this particular book, so I am choosing to stick with Train A Train to stay on point. I originally got an email with Jason’s manuscript attached from Candlewick and they asked me what I thought and if I would be interested in illustrating it. I love this kind of email! I read it-loved it and the rest is history. I had no idea how popular trains are with little boys, I just knew I liked drawing them and thought this was such a clever take on a train book.

Q. Both of you - what is a typical work day for you like, and what else are you working on?

Jason: My typical workday involves avoiding work for as long as I can. It’s horrible. But between kids, and emails, and having to feed myself three or four times, and the big comfy couch near the computer that’s great for napping, I just seem to lose track of the days. And weeks. And sometimes months. The good thing is that usually I come out of this period with a bunch of ideas that I’m ready to write.
      So I tend to write in quick, violent bursts. Generally, I hole up in a skuzzy motel room or my Dad’s NYC apartment when he’s out of town, and just consume Red Bulls and dark chocolate, and bang my head on the desk until something pops out. It’s disgusting and barbaric (and my mother hates it), but it seems to work for me. Last trip I wrote four picture books in five days. Two of them have sold and I’m about to show the other two.
      I have three more picture books coming out in the next couple years: Great, Now We’ve Got Barbarians!, Bad Brows, and The Catawampus Cat. And a novel that I’ll be done with soon, if it doesn’t kill me first. And hopefully I’ll work with John again on another picture book. Right, John? Umm…John??

John: Actually Jason and I got together recently when he was in Los Angeles and we discussed ideas for another collaboration. We shall see what we can brew up!
      My typical workday starts right after I drop my daughter off at school. My studio is in my back yard, so I make a cup of decaf coffee and set to work. That’s right…decaf. I spend most of my time drawing and painting throughout the rest of the day. I have a pretty good work ethic and focus, so if I have a day where I am not productive I can get pretty down in the dumps. I love to have a drawing or painting almost done by the end of the day, because finishing that off the next morning usually gives me the jumpstart I need to get productive right away. Starting a new drawing first thing in the morning is always tricky. When I am writing, I like to do that very early in the morning around 5:30 or 6:00 am. I like that quiet time before anyone in the house is up. As far as other projects go, I have a lot going on. I have my first YA novel, which I wrote with a childhood friend, coming out in April called, Swim That Rock. I also have a big illustrated book of Greek mythology coming out this summer called Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, written by Rick Riordan. Right now I am working on two picture books. The first, Blizzard, is about my childhood experience during the New England blizzard of 1978 (Fall 2014). The second is called, Beep Beep Go To Sleep, written by Todd Tarpley. (Spring 2015)

Congratulations again and thanks so much for stopping by!

Candlewick has kindly agreed to give a free copy of HOW TO TRAIN A TRAIN to one of my lucky commenters! Must live in the US/Canada to win. Enter below.
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Coast to Coast: Best Kids' Bookstores

My very own Little Shop of Stories made it onto the list of top kids' bookstores at Daily Candy. There are some great photos of all the stores, so click the image to go check out the full article!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Writing Guinea Pig

     For all the reading we love to do, there's somebody on the other end writing. I've been looking at all the projects I want to write in 2014, and I am going to be one busy little guinea pig!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages and be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - I love scribbly kids art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...

Learn about proper parenting language and the power of choice in, Ready for Bed! , Ready for the Day!, and Ready to Play! - click the covers!

360° Visual Stories Cut Into Paper Books

by Yusuke Oono. They speak for themselves:

For lots more images of Yusuke's work, go to Colossal. Or click on her name to visit her website. LOVELY!

Books? Books. BOOKS!

The Doylestown Bookshop recently did a very cute video:

Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the heads up!

Friday Linky List

Bruce Springsteen, Woody Allen, and the Long Tradition of Hating Your Own Work at 99U by Behance. Worth a read - and a peek at Woody Allen's opening for Manhattan.


Personal interest story from Lifehacker (and Kathryn Ault Noble - thanks!): How Can I Avoid Static Electricity Shocks in Cold, Dry Weather?

At the Huff Post - Reading Changes Brain's Connectivity, Study Suggests. (Basically, reading makes you smarter. But we knew that, didn't we?)

At School Library Journal - The Givers: What It Takes to Serve on the Newbery, Caldecott Committees

At PolicyMic - 5 Very Troubling Messages Hiding in Popular Children's Books (via PW Children's Bookshelf)


It seems appropriate that we celebrate a birthday book giveaway for the new year! THE NIGHT BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY is written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Amy Wummer. Natasha stopped by recently for a chat about her latest...

Q. Hi Natasha! Congratulations on the release of your 17th "The Night Before..." book. Wow, is it really that many? How long have you been doing these?
Yes, it really is 17 and there's another one being illustrated, and two more ideas in my head! The first one, The Night Before Easter, came out in 1999 so I've been writing and publishing the Night Before books for fifteen or so years.

Q. It's a sweet gig - how did you land it?
Well, I had two picture books out but I was experiencing a dry spell in selling any new manuscripts so I took a job at an elementary school as a reading tutor. That's when I got a letter from Grosset & Dunlap that they were interested in The Night Before Easter after another editor had referred the story to Grosset. It was supposed to be just one book about the Easter Bunny, but the story proved popular so my editor suggested I write more. It organically grew over time, adding back-to-school titles as well. So it wasn't planned to be a series from the start, but I'm glad it became one!

Q. The rhyme of "The Night Before Christmas" is so familiar. Are the stories difficult to create?
No, for the very reason that The Night Before Christmas is so familiar and ingrained in our literary and childhood culture. I feel it's a bit like cheating that the original story has already set up a structure for me to write towards. In each story I include some of the familiar refrains such as "The children were nestled all snug in their beds, etc." (except I put my twist on it) to tap back to the original story. If I am having difficulties coming up with story direction, I have a great editor in Jane O'Connor who helps me improve the story.

Q. Do you write poetry or rhyming stories outside of the series? How do you feel about writing in rhyme?
Actually, my very first published book, Hippity Hop, Frog on Top, had a rhyming refrain in it which went like this: Hippity hop, frog on top. One frog, one frog tall, could not see over the wall. (Then it counts up to ten frogs.) I grew up with Dr. Seuss so I like the rhythm of rhyming. I have also written some poetry that rhymes. But I do prefer Haiku when I write poetry. Less words.

Q. Are there any odd factoids behind these books that we'd find interesting? I'd love to hear!
The Night Before Thanksgiving is inspired by my family's trips to Massachusetts to celebrate Thanksgiving at either my grandparent's farm or my aunt's house; they traded off years. My mom has a big family and some of them were spread out, so it was an ordeal to get us all together, and sometimes there'd be a snowstorm. That book also makes a nod to one of my favorite Christmas movies which is A Christmas Story where the Bumpus hounds eat the turkey. So I wanted there to be a moment where the readers thought the turkey might be dropped and eaten by the family dogs.
     Also, in the Valentine's Day book: The artist in the book painting hearts on kids' faces is the artist, Heidi Petach, in illustration form. She also put the Valentine's Day book on the bookshelf in the illustration.

Q. How will you celebrate your latest release?
It's on the same day as my anniversary (#26!) so my husband and I will be up in Estes Park, CO snowshoeing and hot-tubbing. There might be champagne involved.

Sounds wonderful! Congratulations!

Natasha has kindly agreed to give a signed/dedicated copy of THE NIGHT BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY to one of my lucky commenters. Must live in the continental US to win. Enter below!
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