“Perfect Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Yay I’m back again reviewing more beautiful Picture Books. Sorry I haven’t been here for awhile but you know how it is with family, and with summer in our part of the world the outside beckons and so the laptop keeps being left inside untouched for days at a time. But I’m back now so lets get started.

Tell Me a Story Rory

Written by:  Jeanne Willis

Illustrated by:  Holly Clifton-Brown

Published by:  ‎ Hachette Children’s; Books

Ages:   1 – 3 years

Theme:   Friendship, story-time, love

 Opening Lines:   There was once a lion who slept on a little girl’s bed.  The lion could not sleep without a bedtime story.

Synopsis.    From Amazon   Rory the lion can’t sleep without a bedtime story and the little girl never forgets to tell him one. But one day the girl – not so little now – goes away. If Rory tells his own bedtime story will it somehow come true? Will it bring his little girl back?

Why I like this:  This is a beautiful timeless story about friendship, love and the power of stories. Cute story with big soft illustrations showing youngsters that things change but true friendship and love is always there.

Resources/Findings:  author’s website …   https://www.jeannewillis.com/school-visits

Where you can also find this book..    https://www.readingzone.com/books/tell-me-a-story-rory/

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

Posted in Literature | 4 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation

Written by:  Lindsey McDivitt

Illustrated by:   Charly Palmer 

Ages :   7 years and over.

Publisher:  :   Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (March 30, 2021)

Theme:  racism, hope, kindness

Opening Lines President Nelson Mandela had white hair, kind eyes, and a wide, warm smile. But many times over his long life he’d had no reason to smile. Many times his eyes had glittered with anger at injustice.

Synopsis:  (from Amazon) As Nelson Mandela lived and worked under the unjust system of apartheid, his desire for freedom grew.  South Africa separated people by races, oppressing the country’s non-white citizens with abusive laws and cruel restrictions. Every day filled Mandela with grief and anger. But he also had hope—hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it.

From his work with the African National Congress, to his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his extraordinary rise to the presidency, Nelson Mandela was a rallying force against injustice. This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle. Illustrated in the bold, bright colors of South Africa, A Plan for the People captures the spirit of a leader beloved around the world.

This book about President Mandela attempts to convey these messages:

·       The ability of people to turn away from fear, hate and learned racism

·       The meaning of true democracy and equality

·       The beauty of a racially diverse population

·       Mandela’s messages of the power of love and the importance of education

·       The history of apartheid in South Africa

Why I like it:  This is a beautifully powerful book lyrically written with heart.  Mandela’s struggles, hope, kindness, and calm confident leadership is shown throughout both in text and in Charly Palmer’s lavish, vibrant, and deep illustrations.  This is an inspiring book chock-full of information which is easy for youngsters to understand and a must have in all libraries which evokes conversation around racism back then and now.  The book has an extensive author and illustrator’s notes along with a brief history of apartheid, and major events related to apartheid in south Africa. There is also The ANC Struggle against Apartheid and Mandela’s prison time. Also there is a Timeline of major events in Nelson Mandela’s life, websites and videos to explore, and more books about Mandela.   Lindsey has been thorough in her research and her dedication is obvious.

I was very interested in this book as the 15th August 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of the first rugby Test of the Springboks’ tour of New Zealand in Christchurch and the protests against the Springboks at that time reverberated around the world – delivering a savage psychological blow to South Africa’s white regime.  It is believed Nelson Mandela spending his 18th year in jail on Robben Island smiled when he heard of the protests in such a small country as New Zealand.  See here a clip in the Guardian  https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/aug/15/rugby-racism-and-the-battle-for-the-soul-of-aotearoa-new-zealand

I was also intrigued as to how Lindsey went about writing Mandela’s story. Why she wrote it the way she did and what she hoped people would learn or come to understand about Mandela.  Here is what she had to say…

When reading extensively about President Mandela’s twenty-seven years in prison I was struck by how much he loved and missed children. His own were very young when he went to prison. I imagined how surprised young readers would be to hear tales of his life from a man who looked like a kindly grandfather. I think even adult readers will be amazed that Nelson Mandela did not show anger or bitterness when they learn all he endured.

I really wanted to begin with Mandela the President in order to just touch on his younger years. This was a way to focus more on his years in prison when he purposely made himself into the statesman South Africa needed so desperately. The fact that he never gave up, educated himself behind bars and even sought to change his White prison guards was astonishing.

I love the touches of emotion that are threaded into your sentences Lindsey. Such as….   “He vowed to strike down the laws of apartheid…”  and  “He ached to see his wife and five children….   twenty-one years would crawl by before he was allowed to even touch her hand.”   Wow, that moved me. Did you immediately come up with this paragraph or did it take many drafts?

Thank you Diane! Those lines definitely required many rewrites! It’s my practice to focus first on what I want to include and then circle all my boring verbs. I strive to amp them up along with cutting, cutting, cutting words before I ever submit to editors. Most of my revisions with my editor at Eerdmans Books for Young Readers actually involved adding a bit of information and writing the back matter. This was my staid boring text initially.

“He badly missed his wife Winnie and his five children. His daughter Zindzi was a tiny girl when her father went to prison. She was not allowed to visit until she was 16 years old.

His first year on Robben Island, Mr. Mandela was allowed one visitor, one time—his wife Winnie. Even on visits a wall kept them apart, and it was 21 years until he could touch Winnie’s hand.”

I also asked Lindsey how she started her story. Often with the first paragraph of what you initially had down, ends up being nothing like what is in the book so I wondered if she had a copy of what her very first paragraph looked like.  It would be fun to show the earlier pages as that is what seems to be the hardest for writers to get just right.

It’s very true Diane; we often end up with a beginning far different from our original. But with A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation you will actually find much of the final version of my first page here in my first draft. It was a picture book with a working title of “Grandfather Mandela.”

(Lindsey’s first page 1st draft)

“I’m guessing you’ve heard of Nelson Mandela.

The first President of South Africa elected by voters of all races.

The courageous man who fought for the freedom of his fellow black South Africans.

The man jailed for 27 years because the white government feared he and his friends would take over the country.

Perhaps you can picture his kind eyes, white hair and wide warm smile. He looked a bit like a kindly grandfather.

If you’d met him, he would have probably sat you down on his knee. He loved children. He might have told you stories.

Stories about growing up in the Xhosa village of Qunu…about…and about….

Most likely you would not have heard about those long, long years in prison. President Mandela wouldn’t want to make you sad.

But it was those long prison years that made him into just the leader a new South Africa needed.”

Thank you Lindsey for allowing me to showcase your new book  A PLAN FOR THE PEOPLE – Nelson Mandela’s Hope for his Nation.


You will find Lindsey McDivitt here on her blog… https://www.lindseymcdivitt.com/

Twitter…  https://twitter.com/AisforAging

Facebook… https://www.facebook.com/A.is.for.Aging

Talented artist Charly L. Palmer whose work recently graced the cover of Timemagazine (July 2020). His website….  https://www.charlypalmer.com/       and    https://www.culturetype.com/2020/06/30/charly-palmer-is-latest-artist-tapped-to-illustrate-cover-of-time-magazine-providing-image-for-america-must-change-issue/

Kirkus review… https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/lindsey-mcdivitt/a-plan-for-the-people/

Lindsey McDivitt: Picture books Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story (2018) and Truth and Honor: The President Ford Story (2020) were published by Sleeping Bear Press. In an effort to combat ageism, Lindsey showcases picture books with accurate, diverse images of aging and older adults on her website and reviews them on her blog at “A is for Aging.” Her first career working with survivors of stroke helped her to realize the importance of stories to highlight hidden strengths for kids.


I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

Posted in Literature | 3 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Bigger than a Dream

Written by:  Jef Aerts

Illustrated by:  Marit Tornqvist

Originally Published by:  Levine  Querido, Books Netherlands 2013  Translated by David Colmer and published in November 2020 by First Printing.

Ages:    4 – 8 years

Theme: Life, death, questions

Opening Lines:   The first time I heard her, I was sitting at the table eating some marzipan.  Suddenly there was a rustling in my ear. I tried to wiggle it out with my finger.

Synopsis:   from Amazon:-  :   People fear death (apparently just a tiny bit less than public speaking). We don’t know how to talk about it, especially to children, and we’re afraid to bring it up for fear of making people sadder.

Yet children, especially, have questions, and this incredibly gentle and surprisingly light story is full of both comfort and vividly imagined “answers.” The first one gives the book its title: A boy hears the voice of his sister calling him one day, a sister he’s never met because she died before he was born. The sister in the faded photograph on the wall. So that night he asks his mother what death is like and she tells him, “It’s like dreaming, only bigger.”

That’s lovely, but he still has questions, which it turns out his sister can answer! On a dreamy, carefree adventure they ride their bikes together, (not always on the ground), visiting places that were special to her when she was alive. And she talks to him in the older sister, teasing, straightforward, loving way that is exactly what he needs. (It turns out that death is not the only thing that can be Bigger Than a Dream.)

Much, much more than bibliotherapy, this is a work of art that speaks with honesty and tenderness about one of life’s great mysteries

Why I like this:  This is a beautiful moving book about death. Young kids always have questions and the topic of death is another mystery.  Marit’s rather dreamy style is ideally suited to such a sensitive subject as a sister’s death. This story is based on Jef’s own life as his sister died before he was born and although he grew up in a house where she was not there, yet she was everywhere. As a child he felt his sister came to visit him and this is what inspired this story. It has beautiful tender moments, lyrical and dreamy.  Keep tissues handy. 

Resources:  author’s website…  https://www.jefaerts.com/bigger-than-a-dream.html

Author talks about his book….   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpSGsjV3Omc

An interesting chat from illustrator Marit Tornoqvist. In her attic studio in the Netherlands …   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQGGwgCDDr8

Illustrator’s beautiful website…     http://www.marittornqvist.nl/en/   Check out her prints, postcards and calendars.

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday


I’m sitting wrapped warm, fluffy woolly socks on my feet on a cool autumn evening and this beautiful book on my lap, having arrived in the post, listening to the hum of soft rain outside and my mind drifts back to 2017 like it was yesterday. I was watching the devastating news unfold on the television of Hurricane Harvey’s destruction thousands of miles away in the USA and wondered how a dear writing friend was coping and whether she had survived the devastation. You see Ellen and I had been chatting on the internet a few weeks before Hurricane Harvey avenged it’s anger on Houston,. She and her husband were soon to holiday on a cruise ship bound for New Zealand.  I was so looking forward to meeting a fellow writer all the way from the USA and I made mental notes on some places and attractions she might like to see in the short time they would be here.  I was soon to hear Ellen had lost everything and the trip of course was cancelled. As the days and weeks and months passed Ellen would keep us updated (thank-goodness for internet) and although her words were strong, calm and optimistic, I wondered how anyone could have coped in such a situation. Ellen’s own experience, and the kindness of others is brought to us through the eyes of young Charlotte in this emotionally charged story and demonstrates Ellen’s skill as a writer and story-teller for young children.

Written by:  Ellen Leventhal

Illustrated by:  Blythe Russo

Published by:   Worthy Kids Hachette Book Group USA 2021

Ages:    4 – 8 years

Theme: empathy, hope, and empowerment.

Opening Lines:   The night the river jumped its banks, everything changed.

Synopsis:   from Amazon:-  A Flood of Kindness, is a poignant picture book that addresses grief and loss and demonstrates how kindness can bring hope. Written in spare prose and told from an intimate first-person point of view, the story follows Charlotte, a young girl who watches floodwaters rise in her home and is forced to evacuate to a shelter with her parents. Kind people she doesn’t know give her food, socks and shoes to keep her feet warm, and a place to sleep. As Charlotte adjusts to the shelter—a strange, crowded place that is not home—she grapples with feelings of anger and sadness. But as the days go by, Charlotte starts to realize how grateful she is for the things that she does have—her parents, a cot to sleep on, food to eat—and starts looking for ways to help others in the shelter.

All children deal with sadness and loss in some way, whether it stems from a natural disaster, the death of a pet, or moving to a new place. A Flood of Kindness acknowledges those difficult feelings and helps readers process them in a healthy way. Children will be encouraged to be kind to those who need a friend and to help others in whatever way they can, no matter how small.

Why I like this:   Ellen’s lyrical and sparse prose grips us from the first page and the story is dotted with timely page turns and a clever refrain that keeps the reader infested. Blythe’s beautiful hue colored illustrations with expressive facial expressions of despair and the cool greys of the weather gives depth. This book is a timely reminder we all should think of the needs of others and is an excellent read aloud for children, families, and schools to help build empathy, kindness, and community. It’s about paying it forward and shows how no one is too small or too young to help out.  I recommend having a tissue or two handy when reading this beautiful story.

Resources:   Ellen Leventhal has been writing for as long as she can remember. She is the co-author of Don’t Eat the Bluebonnets, a 2017 Mighty Girls Book pick, and the author of Lola Can’t Leap. Ellen is an active member of SCBWI, as well as a member of Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Challenge. She lives in Houston, Texas, where she can be found working as an educator, wandering the aisles of bookstores, and doing school author visits.

Ellen’s website…   https://www.ellenleventhal.com/

Blythe Russo holds a masters in illustration from the Savannah College of Art and Design. When she’s not drawing, you can find her building puppets, playing Dungeons & Dragons, or in the kitchen on a never-ending quest for the perfect chocolate-chip cookie recipe. She lives just outside Cincinnati, Ohio.

Blythe’s website…   https://www.blytherussoillustration.com/

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday


Written and Illustrated by:  Galia Bernstein

Published by:   Abrams Books for Young Readers New York 2019

Ages:    4 – 9 years

Theme: exploration, family and individuality.

Opening Lines:   Leyla has a mother and a father… and nine aunts and twenty-three cousins.  That’s too many!

Synopsis:   from Amazon:-  Leyla is sick of her big, loud, overbearing family. They are always chatting, snuggling, and grooming each other (ew!), and—for Leyla—there’s no escape from their attention. So, she decides to run away until she can’t hear (or smell) her baboon troop anymore. In the middle of her desert habitat, she finds a lizard sunning himself. Unlike her family, the lizard loves to sit alone, be quiet, and do absolutely nothing at all. Leyla joins the lizard, and after soaking up some quiet time, she feels recharged and ready to return home to her large, ever-doting family. Now that she knows where she can always find a little peace, Leyla can embrace the chaos and the kisses with open arms.

Why I like this:   The beautiful digital and hand-textured art features comically fluctuating facial expressions amid loose lines and earth tones, just look at that pixie face! Text is sparse with some pages only a few words or a sentence. With rhythm and action this is a rollicking fun read.  Curled up toes and large expressive eyes show a lot of this story is told in the illustrations.  This is a lovely book showing young kids how to take stock and realize the value of family. 

Galia Bernstein born in Israel now lives in Brooklyn New York USA is both an artist and a writer.  


An interview with Galia Bernstein…    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZgU0UmGsqk

Another interview with Galia Bernstein…   https://celebratepicturebooks.com/interview-with-author-illustrator-galia-bernstein/

Check out Gaila’s website – her portfolio and blog…    https://www.dancingkangaroo.com/about

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon.

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

Nara and the Island

Written and Illustrated by:  Dan Ungureanu

Published by:   Andersen Press, UK & USA  2016

Ages:    4 – 9 years

Theme: exploration, bravery, making new friends           

Opening Lines:   My home is so small, you can’t lose anything. At least, that’s what my dad says. But sometimes I felt like getting lost…

Synopsis:   from Amazon…    Nara lives with her father on a tiny island and dreams of visiting the island across the waves. So when she gets the opportunity to visit the mysterious island, an amazing adventure unfolds.

Why I like this:  The illustrations for one are beautiful in soft pencil colouring giving a whimsy feel of classics of old. The heads seem a little bigger with a cute pixey look. Romanian-British illustrator Ungureanu introduces Nara a redheaded girl who finds life a bit quiet on the island where she lives with her father.  The island is scarcely larger than the home they share, ‘so small, you can’t lose anything,’ her father says. Nara imagines traveling to a nearby island covered with dense foliage. Nara meets a boy who’s similar to her in some ways and her opposite in others, and he longs for the simplicity and quiet of her island. This would make a great mentor text due to the sparse text (one or two lines per page.)  A sweet simple story of wishing for what you don’t have and connecting while also seeing what you have through someone else’s eyes.

Resources:   his website….  http://www.danungureanu.com/about.html

This is a NZ activity to help children focus on what we have in common rather than focus on our differences.   (note: tamariki means children)…   https://sparklers.org.nz/activities/common-ground/

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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

TWO BEARS  – An Epic journey of Hope

Written by:  Patricia Hegarty

Illustrated by:  Rotem Teplow

Published by:   Caterpillar Books – Imprint of the Little Tiger Group, UK 2020

Ages:    3-6 years

Theme: Hope, journey,                                                    

Opening Lines:   This is the story of two bears, who lived many, many miles from each other in two very different worlds.

Synopsis:   from the back cover…    Discover what happens when two bears who are worlds apart embark on the journeys of a lifetime and find that sometimes differences are only skin-deep.

Why I like this:  This is beautifully illustrated in pastel hues giving the story a whimsical feel. Two very different bears are forced to travel looking for food due to environmental change. One from the north the other from the south trek through forest and snow until they come face to face.  At the back of the book are notes on Polar Bears and Grizzly Bears.  There are also some suggestions on what we can do to help save the bears and our environment. 

Patricia Hegarty began working in children’s publishing more years ago than she cares to remember and is now Editorial Director at Caterpillar Books. As an editor she has worked on titles ranging from atlases to animal pop-ups, craft kits to crazy mazes, and sticker books to secret diaries, and as an author has many of her own books sitting on shelves around the world.

Rotem Teplow lives with her husband and son in a small village by the Judean desert in Israel. She currently illustrates for newspapers and children books worldwide.


More of Patricia’s books…   https://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Hegarty/e/B00E6ZH8EG

How to stay safe from bears…   https://www.takethemoutside.com/bear-safety-and-kids/

10 Simple ways children can save the earth…  https://thriveglobal.com/stories/10-simple-ways-kids-can-help-the-earth/

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

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“Perfect Picture Book” Friday


Written and Illustrated by:  Andrew Joyner

Published by:   Schwartz Wade Books, New York  6th October 2020

Ages:    4 – 8 years

Theme:   Empowerment, Community, Hope           

Opening Lines:   Wake up.  Dress up. Drink up. Eat up. Meet up.

Synopsis:   from Amazon –  From a #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator, and the creator of The Pink Hat, comes a timely picture book about a young girl’s mission to inspire others to help the planet!

Celebrate young climate change activists in this charming story about an empowered girl who shows up, listens up, and ultimately, speaks up to inspire her community to take action against climate change. After attending a climate march, a young activist is motivated to make an effort and do her part to help the planet… by organizing volunteers to work to make green changes in their community, from cleaning a lake, to planting trees, to making composting bins, to hosting a clothing swap and more! Here is an uplifting picture book that is an important reminder that no change is too small–and no person is too young–to make a difference.

Why I like this:  Wow! This is great on so many levels.  Firstly it’s inspired by the Climate Change Revolution. A huge message is given in no more than fifty words. A young girl is motivated to make a difference and inspires others to make a better world for tomorrow.

With simple text and lively illustrations in soft pencil with very little colour, Andrew Joyner has given young children a timely story about activism, community, and hope. As a writer I think this book should be on the shelf of every person who is either thinking of writing children’s picture books or who does.  It gives new meaning to – letting the illustrations do the talking.  

Andrew is an Australian illustrator and author and lives in a small country town in the south of Australia.  It was while he was working on an Australian Children’s magazine in 2007 that an author saw his illustrations and recommended him to her editor for her new picture book. Jane Goodwin publisher of Penguin took a chance and asked if he would like to have a go at illustrating the book and he has been illustrating and writing children’s books ever since.  What luck!

Resources:    Andrew’s  website:  https://www.andrewjoyner.com.au/about-andrew

Environmental Education for at Home, In Schools and the Community – https://www.earthday.org/education-resource-library/?gclid=CjwKCAiA9vOABhBfEiwATCi7GPtgtVgYwsFSAcBOz5aAaM-IC7j8vAME–bg6F1EoGsppEqXw5fZ3hoCY14QAvD_BwE

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

Posted in Literature | Tagged , | 14 Comments

“Perfect Picture Book” Friday

The Little Piece of Red Wool

Written by:  Anne-Gaelle Balpe

Illustrated by:   Eve Tharlet

Published by:    Minedition 2014  Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd

Ages:    3 – 6 years

Theme:   sharing, helping others, flow-on

Opening Lines:   Oli had decided to go for a walk even though the wind was blowing strongly. He was holding a bit of wool.  It was a small piece of red wool, probably a stray bit of doll’s hair.  

Synopsis:   from back of the book…  It was only a small piece of red wool.  But thanks to Oli, a bird could finish making its nest, an ant managed to get home and three little hedgehog children did not go hungry. 

Why I like this:   This is a very cute book.  The simple message of sharing what he has to help others gives the story heart and is also reflected in cute expressions in the pixie-like illustrations.  It seems he came by the red wool by accident and when he saw how it could help someone else he was happy to part with it, so too with the feathers and seeds, and then only to finally end up with the piece of red wool again.  I love the twist at the end when he lets the piece of red wool fly out of his hand.  You’ll have to read it to find out where it went.  This is illustrated in clean tones of creams and greens and woody colours that lend a delicate feel to the story. A beautiful story about how one small thing you do to help one person can have flow on effect that may help many more people.


A bit about the author:  https://wilkinsfarago.com.au/authors-illustrators/anne-gaelle-balpe/

Available here…   https://www.target.com/p/the-little-red-thread-by-anne-ga-lle-balpe-hardcover/-/A-78621502

10 Ways kids can help others:…  https://www.pinterest.nz/pin/191614159128821208/

Random acts of Kindness…   https://www.verywellfamily.com/random-acts-of-kindness-for-kids-4136440

I’m always happy reviewing Picture Books that come my way and share them with you.  If you would like to see more please pop over to Susanna Leonard Hills Blog where there are hundreds of books reviewed by other like-minded authors and writers.  Thank you for popping in and I hope you return again soon

Posted in Literature | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

For Writers, Time IS on Your Side

I love introducing books especially those of writing friends and critique buddies like Carrie Finison’s “Don’t Hug Doug.” Introducing her book, Carrie touches on that very important element in our writing journey that we as writers need to be aware of – time!

Take it away Carrie –

I put the word “new” in quotes because in lots of ways DON’T HUG DOUG doesn’t feel very new to me at all. The story began life with a first draft in September 2015, and the idea is even older than that. Surprisingly, given how short they are, picture books can take a long time — perhaps not a long time to write, but a long time to perfect.

We’ve seen some recent stories that seem to be on a lightening path to publication. The story of the little owl stuck in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, an event that just happened this past November, is slated for publication next fall. Similarly, the story of Joe Biden’s dogs – Champ and Major – heading to the White House is coming out in record time.

But these are the exceptions. Most picture books take a minimum of two years in production (especially if the author and illustrator are separate people) — and that’s after an often years-long writing, revising, and submitting process.

But I’ve come to regard that time as a good thing. It allows me to set aside a piece of writing, sometimes for many months, and come back to it with fresh eyes – something I find virtually impossible to do in the short term. Having that fresh outlook allows me to revise a story deeply, rather than just changing a few words around here and there.

For example, with DON’T HUG DOUG, compare the opening lines of the first draft, to the opening lines that are in the published book.

First draft:

Doug was huggable. All his relatives said so.

“Feel this soft, curly hair!” cried Aunt Prudence.

“And look at those big, brown, puppy dog eyes!” said Aunt Muriel.

“Da-ga-ha-ga,” babbled his cousin Maggie.

And they hugged him and squeezed him and squashed him and squished him.

Doug hated hugs, and he hated it when Aunt Prudence, Aunt Muriel, and cousin Maggie came to town. So the next time they did he grabbed a pile of his favorite Captain Haywire comic books…and hid. 

Published book:

The basic concept is the same – a boy named Doug who doesn’t like hugs. But the story changed drastically. The point of view, tense, voice, and tone are all radically different. Looking back through my files, between December of 2015 and April of 2017, I didn’t work on the story at all. I was busy writing and submitting other things. I also put it away for a long time between May and October of 2017 – and it was that draft in October 2017 where the major change took place. The story sold a few short months after that revision.

If you’re going in circles on a story and not getting anywhere, it may benefit from a resting period. When you can come back to your story with fresh eyes, you may be open to seeing it in a whole new way.

Join me for the next stop on the DON’T HUG DOUG virtual tour, at Pragmatic Mom on 2/1. See you there!

Carrie Finison began her literary career at the age of seven with an idea, a box of markers, and her father’s typewriter. She has been writing off and on ever since, though she has (somewhat regretfully) traded in the typewriter for a laptop. Her first picture book, DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, was published in July, 2020. Her second book, DON’T HUG DOUG, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, hits the shelves this month, on January 26, and has earned a starred review from Kirkus. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, daughter, and two cats who permit her to write in their cozy attic office. For updates, subscribe to her newsletter, check out her website, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Thank you so much Carrie for sharing your thoughts and process. I know I speak for many in wishing you all the best and many many “new” books.

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