Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 1, 2023

Book Giveaway: A FRIEND LIKE NO OTTER by Nelly Buchet

Nelly Buchet has a new picture book, A FRIEND LIKE NO OTTER, illustrated by Andrea Zuill and published by Union Square. Union Square Kids has agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US or Canada.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Nelly and Andrea.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments by Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Otter loves playing with Rock. Manatee would like to join. But what happens when Manatee joins Otter and Rock for a boisterous game and disaster strikes? This is a story about finding the courage to face one’s mistakes and take the plunge to save a friendship. It’s also about Rock. . .who doesn’t talk but experiences a lot.

BOOK JOURNEY:

I started writing A Friend Like No Otter at lunchtime. My sister was sitting across from me and sharing something my family never tires of: animal facts.

‘Otters have pet rocks,’ she said.

I stopped eating, stopped everything. `That’s a picture book,’ I kind of yelled, because I was excited, because I knew this idea had legs. And a pocket. In the armpit! Because otters carry their pet rocks in their armpit pockets, I quickly learned. It was too much. And just enough. And I wrote the manuscript and we sold it, thanks to my ace of an agent Erzsi Deak at Hen&ink Literary.

We had interest from a couple of truly fantastic editors, and chose to work with Suzy Capozzi at Union Square Kids (formerly, Sterling). Suzy shared our vision of matching the story with Andrea Zuill’s art. I love Andrea and worked with her before, on my first book, Cat Dog Dog (Random House Studio), which Shelf Awareness called a ‘picture book magnum opus.’ Cat Dog Dog garnered ALA Notable and JLG selections, and a host of best-of-the-year lists (Chicago Public Library, Bank Street College of Education, etc). The ultimate honor was winning the Irma Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, which is voted for by thousands of children across the world.

Reaching children is the entire point of writing picture books, but adults are (naturally!) the gatekeepers, and the champions (we hope!) of what we write. This is where reviews come in. Without them, it can feel that a book goes unnoticed, relegated to obscurity before it had a chance to be discovered by anyone, let alone reaching its audience, children. Reviews are funny beasts. They can confirm your vision and make you feel understood (they get it!!), but they can also destroy your confidence and weigh heavily on your heart. They can also surprise you, in the best way, by revealing something to you about your own book. Reporting on Cat Dog Dog winning the Irma Black Award, School Library Journal shared one of the child judges’ reviews: ‘I think the book is very funny, like at the end after the dog, cat, and other dog finally get along, the baby emerges from its evil den.’ Note that there is no reference to anything remotely evil or den-like in the book, and that this is probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. I also love to think what other children projected onto the pages. For me, what matters is that they relate to the characters. Feeling connected and invested in the story gives them the freedom to interpret.

Reviews are interpretations. They can elicit profound experiences. That’s what Publishers Weekly’s recent review of A Friend Like No Otter did for me. By highlighting the `joy of sociability’ and ‘big emotions’ that run through the book, the review emphasizes how the story `embraces collaborative play for a conclusion that reinforces the value of conviviality.’ I only realized upon reading the review that A Friend Like No Otter had become, in a sense, a response to how I experience a world that can feel increasingly fractured. Although it was inspired by the (super!) cute fact that otters keep pet rocks, A Friend Like No Otter celebrates the glue that makes community a.k.a collaboration. Sharing. Being together. Having fun with—and, thanks to—each other.

So much of writing is having fun with my characters, collaborating with them to see where a story takes us. It doesn’t have to be ‘fun’ in the sense of ‘funny’ or light and fluffy. But it’s almost always interesting, and interesting is often fun. In my book.

Now that I think about it, the way A Friend Like No Otter came to be is really the only way writing works for me. An image pops into my mind, and I fall in love with it. Not in like. I won’t stand a chance if my original reaction is lukewarm. I have to fall in love, whether it be an otter snuggling a pet rock, or an unintentionally stylized, real-life photo of a boy and his abuelo, which was the seed of Abuelito (Kind World Publishing, with art by Ana Sanfelippo, 2023), written with my friend, the child in the picture, David Corredor Benavides. Or a brain on a dog leash, the image that morphed into my mindfulness picture book, How to Train Your Pet Brain (Beaming Books, with art by Amy Jindra, 2022). The social emotional learning and depth only comes after I’ve ‘met’ my characters. I don’t think I’ve ever succeeded in writing from the moral or message to the character. First comes the character, and then the story finds us.

I have four new picture books coming out next year, and each one started with an image: slated for Spring 2024, Dog vs. Strawberry, the story about the greatest race of all time between a dog and a strawberry, brings together the team at Random House Studio that published Cat Dog Dog, with Andrea illustrating once again. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends will publish Sloth is Not A Baby, with art by Janie Bynum, a funny picture book about an adorable sloth who wants his friends to see him as more grown-up. In the summer, NorthSouth will publish Big Sister, Long Coat, about a little sister´s recounting of what was supposed to be a perfect day spent with her big sister, and its unexpected outcome, and Marble Press will publish Finding North, a picture book about Loulou, a lost wolf cub who must prove to herself that she is a real wolf and find the great and fearsome North—and her voice—to rejoin her family. And 2025 has two more picture books in the pipeline that I am excited to share more about soon.

Ultimately, it goes both ways: editors have to fall in love with your work to convince their teams and push a book through acquisitions. The business requires our hearts to be full, each of us, at every stage of the publication process. In this way, writing is highly collaborative. From the inciting idea (A Friend Like No Otter is dedicated to my sister) to the beast that is marketing, which brings us to you. Reading. Right now. Thank you for playing with me. Thank you to Kathy for featuring my book here. Thank you for being a part of this book’s journey.

NELLY’S BIO:

Nelly is the author of ALA Notable and the Irma Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature Winner Cat Dog Dog: The Story of A Blended Family (Schwartz and Wade at Penguin Random House, 2020, with illustrations by Andrea Zuill), which Shelf Awareness calls “a picture book magnum opus.” Kirkus gives this “clever, winning read-aloud for modern families” a starred review, as does the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books. Cat Dog Dog is a Junior Library Guild, Chicago Public Library Best Fiction for Younger Readers, 2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices List, Amazon’s Best of 2020 for ages 3-5, Wisconsin State Reading Association “Picture This” Recommendation List, Iowa Public Radio, and Bank Street College of Education Best of the Year List selection

Nelly’s Can’t Do! board book series published in 2021 (Bonnier UK, with art by Pau Morgan). With compassion and humor, each book shows how even the smallest of us can deal with a meltdown–whether our own or someone else’s. These funny and heartfelt stories are for every kid who’s lost it over the first day of school or which socks to wear.

Celebrated by teachers, clinicians, and mindfulness experts, How to Train Your Pet Brain (Beaming Books, with art by Amy Jindra, 2022) is a a peer-to-peer, funny, accessible and inclusive book about mental health awareness and mindfulness for children.

Her upcoming titles are Abuelito (Kind World Publishing, written with David Corredor Benavides and illustrated by Anna Sanfelippo, 2023), A Friend like No Otter (Union Square Kids, with art by Andrea Zuill, 2023), The Weather Keeper (Enchanted Lion, 2023), Big Sister, Long Coat (North South, with art by Rachel Kastaller, 2023), Dog vs. Strawberry (Random House Studio, with art by Andrea Zuill, 2024) and Sloth is Not A Baby! (Feiwel & Friends with art by Janie Bynum, 2024).

Born and raised in Paris, Nelly holds a degree in philosophy from McGill University in Montreal, where she created a nonprofit project that brings books to refugee children in orphanages and community centers. For her work she was awarded a fellowship at Dalai Lama Fellows (now in partnership with Stanford University Stanford Flourishing Project, the University of Virginia Contemplative Sciences Center, and the University of Colorado Boulder Renée Crown Wellness Institute) and Quebec’s most generous grant recognizing youth entrepreneurship and social justice.

She has taught nonviolent conflict resolution in schools and has spoken at the Preschool Mindfulness Summit, the International Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy, the Bay Area Book Fair, the Ethical Leadership Assembly, and Forces AVENIR in Quebec City, Canada. Nelly splits her time between Berlin, Germany, and the US. Stay in touch on Instagram @nellybuchetbooks

ANDREA’S BIO:

Winner of the Disney Imagineering Award, Andrea Zuill is the author-illustrator of the acclaimed, Sweety (Schwartz & Wade, 2018), and the illustrator of ALA Notable Book and Irma Black Award Winner, Cat Dog Dog; The Story of a Blended Family (written by Nelly Buchet and published by Random House Studio in 2020). Andrea is also the author-illustrator of Dance is for Everyone (Sterling, 2017); Marigold & Daisy (Sterling, 2018); Business Pig (Sterling, 2018); Regina is NOT a Little Dinosaur (Random House Studio, 2021); Donut (written by Laura Gehl and published by Random House Studio in 2022); Gustav is Missing (Random House Studio, 2023); Rocks Don’t Talk (written by Nelly Buchet and to be published by Union Square Kids, 2023); Dog vs. Strawberry (written by Nelly Buchet and to be published by Random House Studio, 2024).

For 20 years she owned and operated a sign and graphics company while creating oil paintings. Her quirky, figurative paintings have been exhibited in California, Texas, and New York, and her work has been shown in the San Diego Museum of Art. In 2006, she started creating prints of funny and whimsical characters which led her to the world of children’s books. But it was a cartoon about her dog Homer wanting to go to wolf camp that launched her book career with the title of the same name, Wolf Camp, in 2016. Follow Andrea on IG @zuillmonkey or Twitter @AndreaZuill. 

 

Nelly, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I love how this cute story introduces children not only to otters and manatees, but other creatures that live underneath the Atlantic Ocean around Florida and the Caribbean Sea. I knew otters liked to float on the water holding hands while they sleep, but I didn’t know that they couldn’t breathe underwater and that manatees can swim under water, but they have to surface ever four to five minutes for air. When they sleep, they sink to the grassy bottom to rest for 20 minute before needing to surface again. I like that this book helps educate children and their parents on how vulnerable manatees and Otters are to motorized boats and how these vehicles can hurt them badly. It is up to use to remember how fragile the ecosystem is to human caused pollution, too. Andrea did a nice job on creating the illustrations to help you tell your story. I love the underwater illustrations. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 31, 2023

Book Winners – Kudos – Industry Changes

BOOK WINNERS:

Gayle Krause won PIRATE & PENGUIN by Mike Allegra

Danielle Hammelef won SINCE THE BABY CAME by Kathleen Bostrom

Winners please send your addresses to me. Thanks!

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KUDOS:

Middle Grade Non-fiction:

Elisa Boxer’s UNEXPECTED UNDERCOVER, an anthology of 50 remarkable female spies that spans history and the globe, offering insight to how the women were recruited, why they became spies, and how they did their job, to Howard Reeves at Abrams Children’s, in an exclusive submission, for publication in summer 2025, by Steven Chudney at The Chudney Agency (world).

Picture Book:

Author of IT’S BOBA TIME FOR PEARL LI! Nicole Chen’s LILY XIAO SPEAKS OUT, about a grunge-loving Taiwanese American tween who must use her voice to fight for ESL support at her school, to Jennifer Ung at Quill Tree, for publication in the summer of 2024, by Jamie Weiss Chilton at Andrea Brown Literary Agency (world English).

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INDUSTRY CHANGES:

AT PIPPIN PROPERTIES:

Marissa Brown has been promoted to agency associate.

Ashley Valentine has been promoted to art manager.

At HOLIDAY HOUSE, PEACHTREE, PIXEL+INK:

Chelsea Hunter has joined as associate art director, novels and middle grade. She was previously senior designer at Abrams.

Amy Toth has been promoted to associate art director, picture books.

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Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Authors Audrey Vernick and Liz Garton Scanlon have written a new picture book, THE WORLD’S BEST CLASS PLANT, illustrated by Lynnor Bontigao, and published by P.G. Putnam BFYR on May 30th. They have agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Audrey, Liz, and Lynnor.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

An irresistible picture book about a boy and his classmates who long for a class pet, but discover the joys and rewards of nurturing a class plant.

Room 107 has a cockatiel. Room 108 has a chinchilla. Even the Art Room has a bearded dragon. But in Room 109, Arlo’s classroom, there is a plant. A mostly green, hardly growing, never moving plant. Even though it doesn’t squeak, whistle, or whimper, Arlo’s teacher says the plant is “more than enough excitement for us.” But what could possibly be exciting about a plant?

One day, Arlo decides to name the plant Jerry. Something about naming the plant makes it more exciting. As the class learns to take care of Jerry, he starts to grow . . . greener and longer and twistier. And before long it’s clear that something amazing has taken root in Arlo’s classroom.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Audrey:

Liz and I both write our own books in addition to those we co-author. Sometimes one of us has an idea that feels like a book we should write together—that happened with Bob, Not Bob and Dear Substitute. There are also times when we more proactively try to think of ideas we could write together, and I remember one such time when Liz threw out the idea of a class plant.

Liz:

My sister is an elementary school teacher (actually we each have a sister who’s a teacher – lucky us!). Anyway, my sister has hosted more than one hedgehog as a class pet. The kids are so into them! I remembered feeling the same away about class guinea pigs when I was young, and the birds and bearded dragons I’ve seen in classrooms and libraries over the years are beloved, too. But what about the class without a pet? What else could make the kids feel alive with responsibility and wonder? Enter… the class plant (which, let’s be real, would absolutely be a disappointment, at least at the start.)

Audrey:

The writing process itself made us feel pretty alive with wonder. There’s so much joy in co-writing, especially when you’re working with someone who is funny, smart and kind! More than our previous efforts, this book, much like the class plant itself, took some surprising twists and turns. I don’t think we found ourselves stuck at any point, except possibly when it came to naming the plant. That took longer than writing the book. There was some uncertainty about publishing at the time the manuscript went out in the world. It has a sort of traditional classroom setting and the pandemic had wiped away most traditional classrooms for the time being. But we are delighted to be with Putnam, and over the moon about Lynnor Bontigao’s pitch-perfect illustration.

Liz:

Ha ha – we really did struggle with that name, didn’t we? It needed to be a little old fashioned but not obsolete, straight-forward but not common, relatively ordinary but somehow funny and loveable and just right. Names ended up being the underlying theme of the whole book – and I don’t think we knew that at first! Names as features of one identity, as defining characteristics, as one of the things that brings a person (or a plant!) to life and makes them familiar and important to us and to the world. We hope this book – with Lynnor’s brilliant, warm, accessible art – will make kids feel seen and recognized for exactly who they are – the way Jerry the Spider Plant is!

Audrey:

: In 2025, two more of our collaborative books will be out in the world: Homesick, illustrated by Daniel Miyares (Neal Porter Books) and The Family Tree, illustrated by Fiona Lee (Beach Lane Books).

Liz:

How lucky are we that we get to keep making books together? We have so much fun planting the seeds of an idea and tending to them to see what they grow up to be!

AUDREY’S BIO:

Audrey grew up in Whitestone, New York, where she lived with her parents and two sisters and a not very bright small white dog. She has a freaky memory about the names of the kids in her class at P.S. 184Q, and even remembers where most of them stood in size order.

She always loved to read and reread and when she thinks of the characters in the books she loved as a child, she remembers them as fondly as her actual friends.

Audrey divides her time between writing (which is mostly spent revising) and visiting elementary schools to talk about writing and publishing. (For school visit info, click here.) She also speaks at conferences around the country. She has published two dozen books for young readers and her books have been translated into fifteen languages.

She lives near the ocean in New Jersey with her family. and one fairly intelligent medium-sized black dog.

Audrey Vernick is the proud recipient of three Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts.

LIZ’ BIO:

Liz Garton Scanlon grew up in a tiny little town in the mountains of Colorado, was a teenager in a tiny little town on a lake in Wisconsin, and has lived most of her adult life on the edge of the hill country in Austin, Texas. 

Growing up, she read all the Judy Blume and Nancy Drew books, plus everything her grandfather got in his book-of-the-month club. Her favorite picture books included Patrick Will Grow by Gladys Baker Bond, The Big Tidy Up by Norah Smaridge, Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, and Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk). 

Liz wrote an exceptional autobiography in 2nd grade, earned degrees in journalism and English, edited a poetry journal, taught at a community college, created corporate marketing communications, and waited tables at a whole bunch of restaurants before landing happily in the world of children’s literature. 

She has two daughters, and it was reading with them that inspired her to write for kids. Her first book was A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, and published in 2004. Her next book, All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, won a Caldecott Honor and numerous other accolades. Those books paved the way for many more. 

Liz and her pal Audrey Vernick have joyfully co-authored several books, including the hilarious Bob, Not Bob, illustrated by Matthew Cordell. And she’s worked with many supremely gifted illustrators, including Glasser, Frazee, and Cordell, of course, but also Arthur Howard, Vanessa Brantley Newton, Stephanie Graegin, Ashley Wolff, Hadley Hooper, Chris Raschka, Lee White, Frann Preston Gannon, Olivier Tallec, Simone Shin, Kevan Atteberry, Diana Sudyka, Sean Qualls, and more. She thinks she’s the luckiest author alive in this regard. 

Liz is proud to serve on the faculty (and as current faculty co-chair) for the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. When she’s not writing or teaching, Liz travels, reads, practices yoga and makes her way through the woods with her dog. 

LYNNOR’S BIO:

Lynnor Bontigao, hails from one of the over 7,600 islands of the Philippines. As a kid, she always drawing. She stapled her first picture book pages at the age of 10. In college she joined a children’s book illustrator group and felt like she  was in the right place. When she moved to America, she studied programming and worked at a major financial firm in NYC for 15 years. She loved the logical part of it and loved solving problems, but it didn’t feel like it fit her purpose, so she focused on drawing again.

As a voice from an underrepresented group, she want to share her own stories and illustrations. So kids like her can say, “This character looks like me, or this place looks like my home, or I eat that food, too.” Now she feels that she is walking her own path in this journey. She is more confident about writing in her own voice and drawing from her own heart.

Lynnor Bontigao is represented by Caryn Wiseman at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. 

She is interested in illustrating picture books & book covers. It’s her dream to write & illustrate stories where family relationships, culture, & food are intertwined. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, 2 kids, and 1 tiny dog.  

Liz and Audrey, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. There is so much to love with this book, but my favorite is watching how the teacher grows in Arlo’s eyes. When Arlo’s teacher brings in a spider plant instead of a fun class pet, Arlo thinks Mr. Boring. When Arlo suggests naming the plant and his teacher quickly offers, “What about Jerry?” Arlo thinks Mr, Bummer, though he has to agrees the plant really is a Jerry. As Jerry grows, so does the bond with the kids and they have learn so much while taking care of him. They are super excited when Jerry starts having babies and the class asks to have a Jerry Appreciation Day and Mr. Patient  says, “Yes.” Before leaving for summer vacation their teacher gives everyone a baby Jerry to take home and now the whole class thinks their teacher is Mr. Perfect.

I love the end of the book where we see the kids returning in the fall with another teacher (Ms. No-Nonsense) and we learn the real name of Mr. Perfect. I can’t wait for you to write the book about the rock Ms. No-Nonsense gives her class.

Lynnor’s illustrations are so interesting and fun. My favorites are: The illustration where she show the plant from the children perspective and the illustration school’s windows and the kids looking out holding their plants. Lynnor, also did a wonderful job depicting the diversity of students in the classroom. Great job all around. I know your book will take root with parents, teachers, and kids. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 29, 2023

Happy Memorial Day

POEM BY DAVID L. HARRISON

Thank You

I don’t know you,
but I know who you are.
You are my hero.

You were someone’s son,
daughter, husband, wife,
someone’s mommy, someone’s daddy…

and then one day you were called away,
left your life behind, left
all you loved, all you meant to do, to be.


I see you at a concert.
You stand, when asked, to be identified.
Until that moment I didn’t know,
you are my hero.


I stand before a memorial,
try to imagine the names as real people,
as alive as I am now,
facing impossible odds
that turned them
into names etched
into a burnished stone wall.


I rub my fingers across the letters.
I can never know them,
but I know who they are.
They are my heroes.


© 2021 by David L. Harrison

MEMORIAL DAY FACTS AND HISTORY

Traditionally, on Memorial Day (U.S.), people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries.  A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

The custom of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves is an ancient and worldwide tradition, but the specific origin of Memorial Day—or Decoration Day, as it was first known—is unclear.


MARGEAUX LUCAS: Peach Pit Parade

In early rural America, this duty was usually performed in late summer and was an occasion for family reunions and picnics. After the Civil War, America’s need for a secular, patriotic ceremony to honor its military dead became prominent, as monuments to fallen soldiers were erected and dedicated, and ceremonies centering on the decoration of soldiers’ graves were held in towns and cities throughout the nation.

CHRIS BEATRICE: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

After World War I, the day expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars.

YVETTE CHUA: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

A Lasting Legacy

No less than 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, and states observed the holiday on different dates. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday by an act of Congress; it is now celebrated annually on the last Monday in May.

Since it all started with the Civil War, you might want to brush up on your knowledge of this event by visiting the Library of Congress Civil War collection, which includes more than a thousand photographs from the time.

LISA FIELDS: Featured on Illustrator Saturday

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WHY IS THE POPPY A SYMBOL OF MEMORIAL DAY?

In the war-torn battlefields of Europe, the common red field poppy (Papaver rhoeas) was one of the first plants to reappear. Its seeds scattered in the wind and sat dormant in the ground, only germinating when the ground was disturbed—as it was by the very brutal fighting of World War 1.

John McCrae, a Canadian soldier and physician, witnessed the war first hand and was inspired to write the now-famous poem “In Flanders Fields” in 1915. (See below for the poem.) He saw the poppies scattered throughout the battlefield surrounding his artillery position in Belgium.

The Poppy Lady

In November 1918, days before the official end of the war, an American professor named Moina Michael wrote her own poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith,” which was inspired by McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields.” In her poem (also shown below), she mentioned wearing the “poppy red” to honor the dead, and with that, the tradition of adorning one’s clothing with a single red poppy in remembrance of those killed in the Great War was born. Moina herself came to be known—and honored—as “The Poppy Lady.”

The Symbol Spreads Abroad

The wearing of the poppy was traditionally done on Memorial Day in the United States, but the symbolism has evolved to encompass all veterans living and deceased, so poppies may be worn on Veterans Day as well. Not long after the custom began, it was adopted by other Allied nations, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, where it is still popular today. In these countries, the poppy is worn on Remembrance Day (November 11).

Today, poppies are not only a symbol of loss of life, but also of recovery and new life, especially in support of the servicemen who survived the war but suffered from physical and psychological injuries long after it ended.

MARGEAUX LUCAS: Peach Pit Parade

Enjoy your day, but remember.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Author Tiffany Dahle has written a new cookbook for Kid published by Page Street Kids It is hitting book shelves  on May 30th. PSK’s has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Tiffany.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Learn To Cook Amazing Meals with Tons of Fun Family Recipes

Are you ready to have a blast in the kitchen and learn how to make the best food you ever tasted? Step by step, this cookbook will show you how to cook the way grown-ups do, but with your favorite flavors! These recipes are perfect for kids because they use simple ingredients, don’t take a lot of work and most cook in just one pot or pan. Along the way, you’ll learn important skills, such as how to cut foods with or without a knife, how to brown ground meat, how to cook noodles and how to use an oven safely.

With so many tasty choices, you can enjoy a laid-back weekend morning by cooking up a wonderful breakfast treat for everyone, such as Cinnamon Sugar & Pecan Monkey Bread. Or choose an amazing dinner such as School Night Chicken Fajitas, Better than Buttered Noodles and Magic Crunchy Coated Fish. You can even make your own favorite restaurant foods like Chicken Finger Dunkers or Mix and Match Seasoned French Fries.

The original Ultimate Kids’ Cookbook has been a treasured resource for thousands of families. This new and expanded edition features 20 brand-new recipes and a totally fresh makeover, now with stunning full-page photography for every recipe and hand-lettered illustrations. With this cookbook at home, you will have a complete guide to making nutritious and delicious meals with confidence for the ones you love most.

BOOK JOURNEY:

I started my website Peanut Blossom to support and encouragement busy home cooks. Why “Peanut Blossom?” I have affectionately referred to my babies as “The Peanut” and “Little Pea” starting with my very first post. I believe that love “Blossoms” around a shared meal.

As soon as my girls could stand on a chair to reach the kitchen counter, I handed them a spoon and invited them to help me play with new recipes to make tasty dishes.As our skills developed, I continued to share our kitchen adventures and experiments. Now over a decade later, millions of readers have cooked our favorite recipes for their own precious families.

I believe that lasting change starts at home and that family dinner doesn’t have to be difficult, so when I realized that most people are looking for a quick fix to what they see as a daily chore and I thought I could help turn that nightly dread of making dinner into an enjoyable experience.

I’m talking about that same family dinner that you have to plan for, shop for, cook, and serve. Day in and day out. Often without the appreciation it deserves.Amidst your struggles and stresses you have the power to make family dinner be a shining light of hope in a stressed out world.Studies have proven that families that eat together:

  • Have stronger connection
  • Grow more intelligent children
  • Reduce stress and increase joy

So it started as a way to catalog my favorite memories with my girls grew into three bestselling cookbooks for families!

Tiffany Dahle in the kitchen with her two daughters making breakfast.

I’m talking about that same family dinner that you have to plan for, shop for, cook, and serve. Day in and day out. Often without the appreciation it deserves.

Amidst your struggles and stresses you have the power to make family dinner be a shining light of hope in a stressed out world.

Studies have proven that families that eat together:

  • Have stronger connection
  • Grow more intelligent children
  • Reduce stress and increase joy

Here you’ll discover hundreds of kid-tested recipes and easy tips for making every family dinner special no matter if it’s a busy school night as you run right back out the door or a special holiday where you want to sit and linger.

I wanted to help families turn things around, so I put together 5 family dinner mistakes most families make. Because while you can’t control what happens past your doorstep, you can create a home filled with love and comfort for the ones that matter most to you. And this world desperately needs more love to go around.

So at Peanut Blossom, you’ll find plenty of support and encouragement for busy home cooks.

Here you’ll discover hundreds of kid-tested recipes and easy tips for making every family dinner special no matter if it’s a busy school night as you run right back out the door or a special holiday where you want to sit and linger.

So visit me and  my family at Peanut Blossom, you’ll find plenty of support and encouragement for busy home cooks.

TIFFANY’S BIO:

Tiffany Dahle is author of two bestselling cookbooks for kids that are chock full of recipes everyone in your family will love. She is also the hostess of the best online book club for moms. Her first book The Ultimate Kids Cookbook: One-Pot Meals Your Whole Family Will Love! was published by Page Street Kids in August 2018.

Her second book The Ultimate Kids’ Baking Book: 60 Easy and Fun Dessert Recipes for Every Holiday, Birthday, Milestone and More was published by Page Street Kids in August 2019.

Her next book The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook: Family Recipes for Foolproof, Delicious Bakes was published by Page Street Kids in November 2021.

Now The Totally Awesome Ultimate Kids Cookbook: Simple Recipes & Fun Skills to Cook Fabulous Meals for Your Family hits book stores on May 30th. 

A bubble of logos with the sources Peanut Blossom has been featured in: Better Homes & Gardens, Pioneer Woman, Tasty, Good Housekeeping, BuzzFeed, Country Living, Parents, Woman's Day

Tiffany says, “I’m the girl who couldn’t boil water when she first got married. My dear husband endured years of meals made with trial-by-fire cooking “lessons” as I learned my way through the kitchen.” Earning every last kitchen skill on her own has given her a deep passion for and understanding of other beginner bakers. She writes her recipes as clearly as she would if she were explaining them to her very own daughters when they try to recreate a special meal for the first time.

She has definitely earned her badge as expert family cook. She tests each and every recipe on this site under real-world conditions. These are the actual dishes she’s serving on a random Tuesday evening or to her extended family on Christmas Eve.

She says, “If my family doesn’t love it, it doesn’t go up on the site. With one super-picky eater and a veggie-averse husband at my table, I can’t think of a better test than that.”

Tiffany received her degree from the University of Wisconsin in Journalism – Advertising. Her first job out of school took me to Milan, Italy where she was forever-changed by the glorious food culture there.

Though she grew up in the midwest, her husband and her now live in Charlotte, North Carolina with their two daughters.

You can visit Tiffany at: https://www.peanutblossom.com But she thinks one of the easiest ways get to know her is to visit her my favorite things.

She loves to chat with readers over on Facebook and Instagram.

You can find her on Pinterest here.

If you have a blog reader app, maybe you’ll prefer signing up for our RSS feed here.

Her family simply loves to travel. Some of the most popular posts over the years on Peanut Blossom have been tips for smoother adventures as a family but I had so much more to share than would fit on this site. You can also find me sharing tips for connecting with your kids through travel over on Don’t Just Fly, my family travel blog.

You’ll find my newest travel tips and destination inspiration over there including:

Thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This looks like a great book to get our tech obsessed away from social media and get them interested in cooking. Children will get excited when the whole family sits down to a meal they had a hand in creating. It is a win-win for everyone. The book looks easy enough to make delicious meals that everyone in the family will love. Just image of the wonderful memories created during this time in the kitchen and skills your children will carry throughout their entire life. I also love how you share a lot of recipes on your website, so even children and families who can’t afford buying a book can learn how to cook and bond with their family in the kitchen. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 27, 2023

Illustrator Saturday – Artist Rep Aliza Hoover

ALIZA HOOVER  – THE CAT AGENCY

 

Aliza R. Hoover: represents illustrators and author-illustrators. She is looking for visual storytellers with distinctive, unique portfolios that will stand out in a crowded market. She is drawn to work that showcases expressive characters, timeless palettes, and atmospheric scenes. She will happily review your comics, book cover designs, and picture book dummies.

Aliza believes in a world where all young people can see themselves reflected in children’s books. She is particularly interested in illustrators from diverse backgrounds and portfolios that depict diverse characters and experiences.

Aliza began her Publishing career at Candlewick Press, where she spearheaded & coordinated illustrator searches and negotiated illustrator contracts. With a degree in Classics and a background in visual art, she is passionate about storytelling and the magical place where words and images collide. She is incredibly grateful to have joined the CAT Agency family, and excited to support artists & creators in bringing stories into the world.

Aliza grew up homeschooled and barefoot in the woods, and has lived in Finland and Scotland before returning to her home state of Massachusetts where she lives with her partner John (who is a spreadsheet magician) and their cat Corryvreckan (who is Aliza’s familiar). Outside of books, Aliza is a multimedia photographer, tarot enthusiast, and amateur circus performer.

INTERVIEW WITH ALIZA:

When you say you were homeschooled, barefoot in the woods, was that in Massachusetts?

That’s right! I grew up outside Boston.

How did you end up living in Finland and Scotland?

In high school, I spent a year as an exchange student in Finland. I had read that Tolkein based the Elvish language off of Finnish, and I wanted to be an elf. Alas, that didn’t happen. But, I can now proudly say I speak one of the rarest languages in the world: mediocre Finnish! After Finland, I had the travel bug. So when it came time to apply to colleges, I decided to apply to places in Scotland.

It looks like you taught Geometry before you attended the University of Edinburgh. Did you do that while in Finland?

I taught geometry to a group of younger home schoolers during my gap year. This was in Massachusetts.

You graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a Master of Arts with Honours in Classical Studies in 2018. What were you career goals when you started at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland?

I wanted to be an editor. The easiest thing might have been to get an English degree, but doing the easiest thing isn’t exactly my style. I have always loved mythology and learning languages, so I decided to start at the beginning and study the Classical foundations of western literature. Also, our hero Tolkein was inspired by Ancient Greek in creating Elvish. And I guess part of me still wanted to be an elf!

What type of classes did you take to get a MA in Classical Studies?

A lot of Greek and Latin language classes, ancient literature classes, and history classes. I did some archeology, astronomy and philosophy, too. I wrote my dissertation on color vocabulary in Homer (ask me about the “wine-dark sea” if you want to have your ear talked off!).

Did you take any art classes while there?

Nope. I freelanced as an artist in college, though. Edinburgh is a hub for theater, and I did a lot of photography and poster design for theater companies.

Did you take any online classes during your four years getting you MA?

I didn’t. This was pre-pandemic by a few years, and I don’t think online classes really occurred to me as a possibility. I have so much admiration for folks who study online, and for the dedication that takes.

I see that you did freelance photography while attending University. Where did you develop your photography skills?

I started exploring photography with my younger brother, Zev, who is now a photographer for the stars (literally, using telescopes!). Growing up, we would always have various projects going on. He was usually the one with the camera, and I was more on the conceptual side or modeling or making sets. I started having my own photography practice when I moved away from home (and from Zev!).

How did you decide to move back to Massachusetts after you graduated?

Student visa expiration made this decision for me!

How did you get the job at Candlewick Press as an art coordinator?

I started out at Candlewick as an intern after college. I had applied a few times, to a few of their internships, and was eventually fortunate enough to be offered a design internship. This transitioned into a temp admin position, and then a full time admin position, all under the mentorship of the amazing Art Coordinator at the time, Jessica Saint Jean. When the Jessica left to become an agent, I had some big shoes to fill.

Where you involved in working with the illustrators and working on their contracts?

Illustrator contract negotiation was a huge part of my job! I was also constantly scouting for illustration talent, meeting with illustrator agents, and working closely with editors and art directors to select and hire illustrators for new projects. It’s a wonderful role that is unique to Candlewick, and it gave me such a fabulous insight into the inner workings of the illustrator selection process.

When did you decide you wanted to become an agent?

While working at Candlewick, I fell in love with the kidlit community and learned that one thing I loved most of all was working with illustrators on their portfolios. I also loved negotiation and was acquiring all of this niche knowledge about talent searches and illustration contracts. Agent-hood was a natural next step!

How did you end up getting your Artist Rep job at the Cat Agency?

The idea of being an agent just kept growing on me! And meanwhile, the CAT Agency was quickly becoming my go-to agency whenever I was conducting illustrator searches. I loved the diversity of their list—no matter what the project required, there would be at least one CAT illustrator who could do exactly what I was looking for, and many things I didn’t know I was looking for! I also loved working with Christy and Chad. Negotiating with them felt so collaborative and natural, with an ethos that we were all fundamentally on the same side. If I was ever going to learn how to be an agent, I wanted to learn from these guys.

So, one day I reached out to Christy Ewers, the head honcho here at CAT. I didn’t even know where to start; I had so many questions about what agent life is like. Christy was just extremely gracious, generous, and welcoming in her answers. We talked for three hours, and the rest is history!

You just started with the Cat Agency and I have already featured a number of your illustrators on Illustrator Saturday. How many illustrators are you handling right now. (You can name names.)

I have LOVED the features you’ve done, Kathy! Right now there are 6 illustrators on my debut list:


Lavanya Naidu –
https://catagencyinc.com/lavanya-naidu

 

Laura Sandoval Herrera – https://catagencyinc.com/laura-sandoval/

 

Stella Lim – https://catagencyinc.com/stella-lim/

 

Abraham Matias – https://catagencyinc.com/abraham-matias/

 

Islenia Mil – https://catagencyinc.com/islenia-mil/

 

Abigail Rajunov – https://catagencyinc.com/abigail-rajunov/

 

I love my little crew! They’re the coolest. I am seriously star-struck every day that I get to work with them. And there are some exciting new announcements coming up, so stay tuned!!!

Do you have a goal to represent a certain number of clients?

Not at all. I am currently growing my list very slowly and thoughtfully. I never want to lose the small boutique mentality of being able to devote my time to each client on my list. At the same time, my eyes and doors are always open to new talent.

When you look at an illustrator’s portfolio, what draws your attention?

I love to see something I’ve never seen before. I am drawn to illustrators who are thoroughly themselves, telling stories only they can tell.

How important is it for an illustrator to have a website and online presence?

So, so important! Online presence is a huge part of running your business and advocating for yourself.

If an illustrator is interested in being represented by you, what should they do?

Reach out to our submissions email, with my name in the subject line. You can include a few favorite samples of your work, and a link to your online portfolio.

Do you have any pet peeves or thing illustrator should avoid?

Every day I see illustrators making art based on what they *think* people want to see. And this makes me so sad!

This is my most common reason for turning down submissions I receive. If I can’t tell what an illustrator’s voice is like or what stories they have to tell, then I can’t possibly be an effective agent for them. Illustrators are storytellers, and your individual voice is something to shout from the rooftops! That’s how you manifest your dream projects.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

I’m never sure how to answer this question. Trends are a messy business, especially in publishing because books take years to be made. If you’re chasing trends then you’ll always be a step behind. Much more fun to be a trend setter, in my opinion!

Any words of wisdom on how an illustrator can secure an agent, and get published?

Reach out to people! This is a very human industry, so make human connections. Reach out to your idols and people you want to work with and people you met once and people you just learned about. Reach out to ask questions or to give congratulations or just to say something nice. It’s a small world, and the more good you put into it the more good you will get out of it. You can’t always plan or predict how that good will make its way back to you, but it will.

Would you like to attend conferences, workshops or retreats?

YES! I went to my first SCBWI conference in February, and it was amazing to meet so many superstars in person. I love working from home, but it is so nourishing to get out and meet face-to-face!

*******

Aliza, thank you for taking the time to answer my interview questions and letting everyone get to know you better. 

 

If you want to submit to Aliza, please use SUBMISSIONS@CATAGENCYINC.COM and put Aliza Hoover in the subject line!

 

Illustrators:

Send 4-6 jpegs of samples, a live link to your website and a short letter of introduction. Please send work that shows character development, style, color and narrative story-telling.

Author/Illustrators:

Email a brief synopsis of your manuscript, along with several accompanying illustrations or samples of your artwork. If we are interested in reviewing your dummy, we will request that you send it.

**Please do not send simultaneous submissions within the Agency**

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 26, 2023

MAY AGENT OF THE MONTH – Jen Newens Interview Part Three

2023 MAY AGENT OF THE MONTH – JEN NEWENS

At different phases of her publishing career, Jen has been an author, editor, and publisher, giving her experience in all sides of the business. She comes to Martins Literary Management after a seven-year stint as publishing director at West Margin Press, an Ingram Content Group company. There, she acquired a wide range of different genres, but holds a special place in her heart for young people’s literature. She began to acquire graphic novels in 2019 and sees it as an exciting and burgeoning way to tell children’s stories. 

A subject matter expert in food and drink titles, Jen spent two decades as a cookbook editor and writer (she even went to culinary school!). She’s experienced in working with celebrity chefs, business owners, cooking brands, and food bloggers, as well as accomplished home cooks.

In her role as Senior Literary Manager, Jen applies her 360-view of the publishing business to MLM, seeking out fresh, original voices and developing exciting new talent. On the children’s side, Jen is interested in picture books with sharp writing and compelling messages; MG/YA stories that resonate with the challenges faced by today’s youth; and graphic novels with quirky narration and original art. In the food and drink space, Jen is keen to find original takes on popular topics, books that reveal a riveting personal story, and books with a health and wellness slant. 

The following are on Jen’s current wishlist, but she’s always open to hearing new ideas. 

Childrens/MG/YA/Graphic Novels 

•    Books that portray historically excluded voices, disability, neurodivergent characters, LGBTQ topics

•    Regional books with national crossover potential

•    Author/illustrators with strong storytelling skills and a clear vision

•    Children’s activity books

•    Quirky and humorous stories

•    Cat content (she’s crazy for cats)

Please submit queries here: http://QueryManager.com/JenNewens

Follow her on Twitter @JenNewens

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BELOW IS PART THREE OF JEN’S INTERVIEW:

Once you submit a manuscript to a publisher, how often do you communicate with your client during the submission process?

Again, since I’m a new agent, I’m not sure about this yet. But my goal is to have an open-door policy with my authors and be available whenever they need me.

What happens if you don’t sell a book and the author wants to self-publish a book? Would you be okay with that?

Hmmm. I’d need to think about this.

Do you think you will seek help from other agents at your agency to get suggestions on editors and/or publishers to submit to for the clients you sign up to represent?

Absolutely. The agents at Martin Lit are highly collaborative and support each other wonderfully. It’s part of the reason I was keen to join the agency.

What do you think of digital and audio books? Are they part of every sale these days?

In my ideal world, publishers would publish all formats simultaneously so that the book can reach the reader in any format they wish. In reality, digital is typically always part of the deal. Audio depends on the genre and publisher’s strategy.

Do you handle all foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?

Yes. Martin Lit has dedicated agents handling both entertainment rights and foreign rights. Not every book is well suited to these, but we will pitch them if appropriate.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

A good trend for all is that we are starting to see retail prices increase for books. This means higher royalties and faster advance earn-outs for authors.

Any words of wisdom on how a writer can improve their writing, secure an agent, and get published?

For children’s books, I recommend joining a local writing/critique group to workshop stories. I would also recommend a trip to the library or bookstore to see what is popular and how the books are written in their genre (picture book, middle grade, young adult, etc.). I also highly recommend joining SCBWI, which has countless resources for kidlit writers. For cookbooks, I recommend following Diane Jacob and buying her book, Will Write for Food. Platform is very important in the food and drink space, so aspiring cookbook writers should focus on creating a blog, teaching classes, bolstering social media, and other things.

I’m discovering that Twitter is a great place to find writing resources and foster community. Most agents are on the platform, so try to follow some that represent your genre and engage in the dialog. The gold standard for agent hunting is Publisher’s Marketplace Dealmakers database where agents can be searched by genre, keyword, and other dimensions.

Would you like to attend other conferences, workshops writer’s retreats?

Absolutely!

*******

BELOW ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MAY 2023 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “MAY 2023 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2023 MAY FIRST PAGE  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

MUST USE WORD – I CAN’T OPEN PAGES

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

DEADLINE MAY 26th – noon EST

RESULTS: June 2nd

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR FIRST PAGE RESULTS.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 25, 2023

Book Giveaway: HELLO, SWEET BABY! by Janeen Jackson

Janeen Jackson’s debut picture book HELLO, SWEET BABY!, illustrated by Brittainie Gaja and published by Paw Prints Publishing. Janeen has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Jeneen and Brittanie.

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Young and in love, Momma Red and Poppa Yellow Tomato decide to have a baby tomato. However, Momma and Poppa quickly learn that they cannot properly care for their sweet seedling the way and make the difficult decision to release her to another loving tomato family in Hopewell Garden, using the assistance of a helpful ladybug adoption agent.

Hello Sweet Baby is a heartfelt, magical story by a bright new talent about adoption, making tough choices, honoring differences, and celebrating different types of families.

BOOK JOURNEY:

In 2018, at age 46, Janeen received unexpected news through DNA technology: she was adopted and biracial. “The information about my adoption shattered me–not because I am adopted but because of the cloud of secrecy looming over me my entire life.” Additionally, the discovery of Janeen’s mixed ethnic background shocked her too. “My (adoptive) parents are African American, and my family skin tones cover a broad spectrum. There was no question in my mind that I was different from my family. So, when I discovered that my birth father is Jewish and my birth mother is African American, I was stunned.” Read about Janeen’s adoption discovery at mixedupdiary.com.

Janeen found inspiration for this book in a small tomato garden at her son Phoenix’s elementary school. “Phoenix was five years old when I told him about my adoption. Before my adoption discovery, he’d often ask my husband or me how I was African American if my skin was so light. I’d tell him that Black Americans and our history are complex and that we come in all shades of color.” However, when Janeen learned about her adoption and ethnic background, she wanted to tell her son in a way she hoped he’d understand. “I remember picking Phoenix up after school and sitting at the school’s picnic table, and I asked him if he knew what adoption was. His school had just wrapped up a unit on different types of families. We talked about adoption for a while, and he got excited because he thought I was going to tell him we would adopt a puppy. It was cute. However, I told him we weren’t and that I was adopted. He wasn’t surprised and had a lot of questions, but when I told him that my birth father, his biological grandfather, is white, Phoenix was confused. He said, ‘I thought you said you’re Black Momma!’ it was a tough conversation. As I tried to explain, I looked at his school’s garden and saw two tomatoes–a red and yellow one alone on a vine with a tiny tomato in the soil. ‘That’s it! This is how I will explain my adoption and the complexities of race to Phoenix! ‘ I said to myself. And that is how my book, HelloSweet Baby! was born.”

During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Janeen decided to put pen to paper and write her book. “I originally wrote the book without the intent to publish it. I wrote it because I wanted to leave my interpretation of my adoption to my children and future family. I also wrote it to help me heal. My adoption discovery, coupled with the pandemic and our country’s civil unrest, was a lot to hold and digest–writing helped me process it.

The writing and illustration process

After I wrote the first draft, I hired a consultant, Jesse Byrd of Jesse B. Creative, to help me finesse it. I told him my plans for the book, and Jesse encouraged me to publish it. However, I wasn’t ready for that process at the time.

After many consultations with Jesses and his staff, I decided to move forward with self-publishing and hired an illustrator. Finding one was easy for me as my background is in graphic design and art direction. After reviewing many sketch tests, I chose to work with Brittanie Gaja. Her ability to translate my story and ideas was beautiful. She was also professional and a joy to work with.

The characters of the book are Momma Red (my birth mom), Poppa Yellow (my birth father), Sweet Baby Red (me), Ladybug Blue (adoption agent), and Mr. and Mrs. Love (my parents, the Jacksons). My birth parents were teens when they had me, so I wanted the illustrations to reflect their youth. As you’ll see in the book Poppa Yellow has braces, and Momma Red has a bow in her hair. I also wanted Sweet Baby Red to “look” mixed race, such as I am, and so that’s reflected in Sweet Baby Red’s “heirloom tomato” skin. As for the Loves, I wanted Brittanie to create “mature” tomatoes because my parents adopted me in their 30s. Also, I asked Brittanie to give Mr. Love a newspaper in the scene where the ladybug first meets them because, believe it or not, my parents found out about me in a newspaper ad an adoption agency placed. I was adopted in the 70s. Back then, agencies had difficulty finding homes for Black and mixed-race children (one child with a Black parent). The agency was desperate, so they placed an ad–it worked…at least for me. So, the newspaper under Mr. Love’s arm is a nod to the moment my parents read about me. The last character Lady Bug Blue is my favorite. Kudos to Brittanie for making him come alive in my book. I love the colors, the actions, and the facial expressions she gave him.

During the writing process, I asked for feedback from an established children’s book author. She told me self-publishing was a good route for me because she believed no publishing company would sign me because my characters are vegetables. The author said, “No one can connect with vegetables as it pertains to adoption. If you change the characters to people or animals, then perhaps, you’ll get a publishing deal. Otherwise, stick to self-publishing.” Her comment took me aback, and I had doubts about my book. In fact, I took a two-month break to decide if I should not publish at all and stick to my original plan of creating my children’s story. After my hiatus, I went back to the book as it was 90% complete. I decided to keep the characters as they were for a few reasons, 1) this is how I explained my adoption to my son, 2) I think it easier to explain the complexity of adoption and race through things people may not be able to relate to such as a vegetable and 3) I had already spent a lot on money on the illustrations (LOL).

In December 2021, my consultant, Jesse, called me and asked if he could pitch my book to an undisclosed publishing company. He was pitching it along with several other of his clients. I agreed. However, about two weeks later, he told me my book wasn’t selected. I was disappointed but didn’t give up and completed the book about six months later. August 2022, a week after making a big move from Santa Monica, CA, to Evanston, IL, Jesse called and told me the publisher had changed their minds and wanted to offer me a publishing deal with Paw Prints Publishing of Baker & Taylor! They said that they couldn’t stop thinking about my story. Most importantly, they loved that the characters were vegetables and thought they were a unique twist to adoption discovery. They loved the illustrations so much that they kept everything my illustrator and I had created.

As you go on the journey with Lady Bug Blue, aka Blue you will learn about different types of “veggie” families, some that changed their mind about adoption (Zucchini family) and some that have adopted “outside of their vegetable” before. For example, you’ll see that the Royal Bean family adopted a baby carrot. You’ll also see Blue’s struggle with one family that isn’t interested in adoption, the strawberries, because of the way Sweet Baby Red looks. This story touches on truths about my adoption journey. However, the reader will eventually discover that Blue finds a family for Sweet Baby Red, who always wanted baby tomatoes but could grow any on their vine–the Loves.

The book’s last page is about “Things to Consider” and offers the reader questions about what’s happening throughout the book. This page was created to help parents and educators start conversations about adoption, families, and differences.

My adoption journey and discovery have been and still is an emotional one. However, this book is a beautiful result of my healing process. I’ve done more with this book than I could have ever imagined. The story grew from one that I created on the fly to my son to one that will be shared around the world. Hardcovers are available on Amazon now, and softcovers will be available wherever books are sold.

JANEEN’S BIO:

Author Janeen Jackson lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband Ron Clark and their two sons, Tyson and Phoenix. She received her B.A. from Norfolk State University, an HBCU, and completed her master’s in Education Leadership and Change in 2020 from Antioch University.

In 2018, at age 46, Janeen received unexpected news through DNA technology: she was adopted and biracial. Read about Janeen’s adoption discovery at Mixedupdiary.com. Janeen found inspiration for this book in a small tomato garden at her son Phoenix’s elementary school. Writing this story was Janeen’s way of explaining her adoption, the complexities of race, the family that released her, and the family that adopted her and loved her as their own.

Hello, Sweet Baby! is Janeen’s debut children’s picture book.

Janeen Jackson lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband Ron Clark and their two sons, Tyson and Phoenix. She received her B.A. from Norfolk State University, an HBCU, and completed her master’s in Education Leadership and Change in 2020 from Antioch University.

In 2018, at age 46, Janeen received unexpected news through DNA technology: she was adopted and biracial. Janeen found inspiration for this book in a small tomato garden at her son Phoenix’s elementary school. Writing this story was Janeen’s way of explaining her adoption, the complexities of race, the family that released her, and the family that adopted her and loved her as their own. Hello, Sweet Baby! is Janeen’s debut children’s picture book.

Visit her blog, mixedupdiary.com, to learn more about her adoption journey. #pawprintspublishing – #jessebyrd – #brittaniegaja – #mixedupdiary

BRITTANIE’S BIO:

Brittanie Gaja is a Los Angeles based illustrator with a BFA in Illustration from ArtCenter College of Design. Her work takes inspiration from her love for nature, travel, and yummy treats, often using geometric shapes with organic forms to create her whimsical illustrations. She has a strong interest in children’s book illustration and publishing as well as editorial illustration.

In her free time, you can find her staring at fish at her local aquariums, hoarding plant children, or plotting how to hide a secret pet chicken under her bed.

Janeen, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This is a fun book. Ladybug Blue, a counselor from the Hopewell Garden Adoption Center was a great addition. I love the veggie characters, too. They all really bring the adoption story down to a young child’s level. This is a great book to help children understand that they are loved by their birth parents and how happy their adoptive parents are to have little tomato to love and take care for. I can see why you wanted Brittanie to illustrate your book. Her whimsical and colorful style is wonderful and perfect for this story. The whole book is filled with action, movement, and so many little details that will keep kids coming back to look at the book over and over again. Ending with a signed contract was a nice touch. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 24, 2023

Book Winners and Kudos

BOOK WINNERS:

Penny Taub won WOMBATS ARE PRETTY WEIRD: A [Not So] Serious Guide by Abi Cushman

Kvavala won HELLO, MEADOW! by Terry Pierce

Jilanne Hoffmann won SUMMER IS FOR COUSINS by Rajani LaRocca

Winners please send me you addresses. Thank you!

*******

KUDOS:

Helen H. Wu, author of TOFU TAKES TIME, has sold PING’S PERFECT POT, a story of persistence in which a girl tries to make the perfect pot for the tangerine tree she and her grandfather purchased for Lunar New Year to Naomi Krueger at Beaming Books. It will be illustrated by Zihua Yang and published in December 2024.

Lynne Marie and Brenda Sturgis’s BROOMMATES, about two witchy sisters who share a broom and a room, and have to find a way to meet in the middle, illustrated by Nico Ecenarro, to Michele McAvoy at The Little Press, for publication in fall 2024, by Jonathan Rosen and Marisa Cleveland at The Seymour Agency for the author, and by Dan Cramer at Page Turner Literary Agency for the illustrator.

*******

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 23, 2023

Book Giveaway: TANGLE-KNOT by Loretta Ellsworth

Author Loretta Ellsworth debut picture book, TANGLE-KNOT, illustrated by Annabel Tempest, and published by Page Street Kids is hitting book shelves  on June 6th. PSK’s has agreed to share a book with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is to leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Loretta and Annabel.

DESCRIPTION:

Tangle-knot is not a word, but it is Fia’s hair.

And Fia thinks it’s perfect, which is why she refuses to brush it, even though her mom always complains it’s a mess. In fact, it’s more than a mess―it’s a nest for a mother bird and her three colorful eggs!

Fia takes excellent care of her birds and shows off her tangle-knot everywhere she goes, attracting lots of attention. As the spectacle grows, so does Mom’s disapproval. But Fia’s commitment to being herself just might be powerful enough to change her mother’s mind.

This whimsical story shines with lighthearted relatability, reminding us that even when our parents just don’t get it, they always want us to be happy.

BOOK JOURNEY:

The journey of my first picture book was inspired by my ten grandchildren and written during Covid, when I could only visit my grandkids via FaceTime or by phone. I read them picture books via FaceTime during Covid, and decided that I really wanted to write a story for them, too.

I already had four YA novels published (The Shrouding Woman, In Search of Mockingbird, In a Heartbeat, and Unforgettable) as well as an adult historical novel (Stars Over Clear Lake).  I have always loved picture books, and took a semester-long course on writing them, but hadn’t been successful in selling one.  Until I wrote Tangle-Knot.

I’ve never been good at styling my kids’ hair, or my grandkids, and they all have gone (or are currently going through) the stage where they don’t like their hair brushed. Haven’t we all at some point in our lives?

Fia’s story was inspired by that idea, and it started out as a whimsical over-the-top kind of book, like Imogene’s Antlers, which I love.  It was meant to be fun and funny, and to entertain my grandkids.  But it evolved as I revised it, and it became more of an acceptance-kind-of-story, of having the commitment to be ourselves, no matter how outlandish we might be.  And it’s also a mother-daughter story, of encouraging and supporting our children, even if they have a nest in their hair!

My illustrator Annabel Tempest knew just how to create this independent and spirited girl, and my editor at Page Street Kids was Kayla Tostevin, who helped me find the balance between whimsy and relatable, and urged me to find a way to add more nuance to the mother-daughter relationship as well as more emotion to the story.

By the way, my agent Mary Cummings at Great River Literary, loved the story and sent it out to numerous editors who all turned it down.  We were left with one editor, so I didn’t have a lot of hope for it.  But she turned out to be the right one.  Hang in there when you get a lot of rejections, because it only takes one ‘yes’!

I’ll be appearing at independent bookstores and libraries beginning in June to read and promote Tangle-Knot, along with a nest-making activity, and I’ll be at ALA in Chicago on June 25.  I know that Annabel Tempest, who lives in England, will be promoting the book there as well.

I’m working on other picture book ideas, and I have a new adult historical novel that will be coming out in a year or two.  Although working in many different genres and writing for different age groups can be challenging, it’s never boring, and I love that I’m able to do this work and that I get to interact with so many different people.

LORETTA’S BIO:

Loretta Ellsworth is a author and former Spanish teacher. She earned a master’s degree in Writing for Children from Hamline University. She’s has published four young adult novels: THE SHROUDING WOMAN, a Rebecca Caudill nominee; IN SEARCH OF MOCKINGBIRD, which won the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Honor Award, was a Teen’s Top Ten finalist, an IRA Notable, and was named to the New York Library’s List of Books for the Teen Age; IN A HEARTBEAT, which was named a spring Midwest Connection’s Pick and an ALA Notable; and UNFORGETTABLE, which was a Kirkus Pick of the Month. Her debut adult novel STARS OVER CLEAR LAKE, was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2017. Her next adult novel, The French Winemaker’s Daughter will coming out this year. Her debut picture book, Tangle-Knot, will be published by Page Street Kids on June 6th 2023.

Her books have been awarded many accolades, including Teen’s Top Ten Finalist, ALA and IRA Notables, New York Library List of Books for the Teen Age, Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Honor Award, Midwest Connection’s Pick, BBCB Choice, NEMBA (North Eastern Minnesota Book Award) finalist, Rebecca Caudill Nominee, and Charlotte Award Nominee.

Loretta lives with her husband and children in Lakeville, Minnesota. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s usually playing tennis.

Visit her website at: http://www.lorettaellsworth.com and follow her on twitter @lellsworth.

ANNABEL’S BIO:

Annabel Tempest, an illustrator living in deepest Somerset in England. I’m bursting with ideas and love colour, pattern, characters and a bit of sparkle. I get really excited about working on new projects and nothing makes me happier than drawing, cutting and sticking!

I did a fashion/textiles degree in Bristol back in the 90s and have since worked as a freelance illustrator. Illustrating everything from Children’s books and greetings cards to maps and packaging so I have lots of experience of working to both brief and deadline.

When I’m not illustrating I take my inspiration from my house full of boys, big, small and canine which is lots of noisy, muddy fun! Having thought I didn’t collect things it turns out I collect everything! Like a magpie I find anything shiny almost irresistable. I don’t like second class stamps or brushing my hair, but I love a list and a second hand book shop.

Loretta, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. You are so lucky to have seven granddaughters. What a great writing inspiration. This book is jam packed with smiles. I love this book. It’s so heartwarming and cute. Many kids have wild hair that gets knotted and doesn’t want to have it brushed. I remember saying, “If you don’t let me brush your hair birds will nest in it.” I laughed that you took that idea and have written a book where a bird really nests in Fia’s hair… and she loves it. I laughed out loud when Fia gets off the school bus outside her house and the media is waiting. Fia twirls around and shows off her Tangle-Knot to the Press.

Kudos to Mom. She is pretty patient putting up with a bird living in her daughter’s hair, especially when the bird lays eggs and they hatch. Love that it’s Fia that decides she needs to cut her hair after the baby birds leave the nest. And the ending of her looking out the window and watching her birds building a nest in the tree outside, so she can watch them grow was great! 

I also, love Annabel’s illustrations. She did a wonderful job depicting Fia’s chaotic hair and Mom trying to deal with the situation. The addition of the little cat watching all this happen throughout the book is adorable. I can see how besides making the readers laugh, this book could help parents be more patient and children to understand the need to brush their hair. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy

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