Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 2, 2021

The Difference Between Nonfiction & Informational Fiction

What’s The Difference between Nonfiction and Informational Fiction
by Mira Reisberg PhD

Hi there children’s book creatives, as you may have noticed, there’s been a phenomenal uptick in nonfiction picture books over the past few years both because of the emphasis on STEM and STEAM education and because of the brilliant way that they are being crafted, reading like gripping plot-driven action or character-based stories. In fact, they are still super hot in the market right now.

There’s also been an uptick in sales of informational fiction stories, which usually feature anthropomorphic characters, or personified objects in some capacity, which also deal with STEM or STEAM in some way.

So what is STEM or STEAM?

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are seen as vital for future US careers and our future economy, so there’s a big educational push for STEM. Currently, our pre-college education system focuses on common core assessments, where there’s a focus on expository texts, which is writing that provides explanatory information, or nonfiction. STEAM is when they throw in the arts, which seems a little tokenistic given the slashing of art and music and theater in school budgets, which given that most innovation comes from different forms of creativity, is a bit short sighted, but I digress (sorry).

The real reason nonfiction is so cool and exciting right now, is that it is no longer written the way it used to be–deadly-dull, biographies stuffed with boring facts, and relying on birth to death timelines. This type of dreary non-fiction is NOT what kids (or most people) want to read. Instead, contemporary nonfiction authors focus on dramatic and pivotal events using plot-driven techniques or fascinating subjects. These subjects might be gross, unusual, historic, or compelling in some way or another for the kids who read them. Also, it’s great for parents to promote their children’s interests in a more productive way. Maybe your kid likes bugs or bulldozers or Amelia Earhart or music? There are dozens of books to foster and extend these passions or find new ones. And if not, you might need to write it yourself. So in a nutshell, absolutely nothing in nonfiction is made up or invented.

Informational fiction, on the other hand, often features anthropomorphized characters or personified objects. In this type of kidlit, a large part of the information in the book is true, but it is usually presented by fictional characters or in a made-up story line. For instance, a fictional narrator or character might tell the true historical story of an event, biography, scientific phenomenon, etc. The Magic School Bus books are a great  example of informational fiction since the characters and storyline are fiction, but the science facts in the text are true.

Another beautifully illustrated example of informational fiction is If Sun Could Speak, by Kourtney LaFavre. by Kourtney LaFavre (Author), Saki Tanaka (Illustrator) where Sun wants to impress in this slightly egotistical first-person account that sheds light on the facts, history, and myths about its existence. The thing with this book, besides being fabulously-well-illustrated is Sun’s witty voice  and  charming personality.

Author Kourtney LaFavre presented in a previous Palooza but in this year’s 2021 Palooza we have some other fantastic speakers sharing techniques and stories about both nonfiction and informational fiction writing.

If you are able to swing the joining us at the Palooza, here’s a taste of some of the prompts from our DIY worksheet that we’ll be giving out as part of the Palooza that you can use for either writing a straight nonfiction or informational fiction book. This worksheet also includes step by step instructions for writing your nonfiction or informational fiction story:

Here are some questions to answer:

  1. What is or was your favorite pet – what was it about their breed that made them a fantastic pet?
  2. What is the weirdest animal that you know of?
  3. Are there any inventions that you are curious about?
  4. How are you going to structure your story?


         Chronologically (beginning to end)?

         Plot-driven overcoming obstacles (see Informational fiction below in worksheet)?

         Compare and contrast?


Each panel will have it’s own worksheet, making this year’s Palooza even more exciting. Our 2nd panel on Saturday the 18th features these super-smart women who will be teaching you about writing your own nonfiction and informational fiction books! Yay!!

Annette Schottenfeld and Folasade Adeshide have created an exquisite informational fiction book, called Obi’s Mud Bath, full of beautiful and fun poetic language techniques and equally wonderful illustrations. It’s based on a true story but features anthropomorphic characters trying to help a little rhino Obi on his journey to find relief from the dry, dry heat with a cool ooey gooey mud bath. It’s a wonderful example of how to write in a respectful way outside of your own culture with part of the proceeds benefiting supplying clean water to places like Obi’s home. Annette will be sharing techniques and books about writing about, Gentle environmentalism with informational fiction

On the same panel, Gretchen McLellan will be speaking about Writing Fun Informational Fiction with Life Lessons & STEM. Gretchen’s story I’m Done! follows Little Beaver’s reluctant journey in learning how to make his own dam. Little Beaver’s parents want Little Beaver to make his own dam. Little Beaver would rather play. Little Beaver soon finds out how important dams are to his own life. There are beautiful illustrations and descriptive details on how beavers build their dams in a fun and adorable way!

And now for some Nonfiction!!! Lauren Soloy takes a really unusual approach to writing about a known figure. In When Emily Was Small, Lauren crafts a story from Canadian artist Emily Carr’s writing. She did a great deal of research to make sure she got all the information correct and carefully crafted her story to show the magic of Emily’s wonder at a moment in time. It’s quite extraordinary. Here’s what Penguin/Random House has to say about When Emily Was Small: “When Emily Was Small is at once a celebration of freedom, a playful romp through the garden and a contemplation of the mysteries of nature.” And of course it has exquisite quirky illustrations. Lauren will be speaking about Writing quirky or lyrical biographies.

Emma Bland Smith’s book Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator is about a white alligator who is now a much-loved character at San Francisco’s California Academy of Sciences. Claude wasn’t always beloved. When he was younger he was shunned for being so different. This story is about Claude’s amazing journey across the country. At the California Academy of Sciences Claude moves into an enclosure with another Alligator named Bonnie. Unfortunately Bonnie has to move out, because she didn’t like Claude’s differences. Claude instead finds kinship with the snapping turtles in his enclosure that don’t mind that he’s different. Emma will be talking about Making Nonfiction Magic at the Picture Book Palooza.

We’ll be delving deep into this subject and many others in our upcoming Picture Book Palooza, a 2-day interactive workshop that you won’t want to miss. Right now it’s only $59 for the 2021 or $79 for both 2020 and 2021 Picture Book Palooza’s

Both Palooza’s feature wonderful teaching and learning panels, worksheets, handouts, giveaways, prizes, and this year, we have some wonderful submission opportunities. Wahoo! You will never find a more generous or helpful conference in the comfort of your own home at this price or even triple or quadruple the price.

Please join us to help raise funds for more diversity+ and low-income scholarships so we can help more writers and illustrators create wonderful kid’s books that make a difference in children’s lives, while also keeping our courses size-limited. So far our students have published or contracted over 670 books, which is pretty darn amazing and wonderful! We can’t wait to hit 1000 books, which is only a matter of time given the quality of our students and programs.

Please share with this link:

Sending much creative love,


Dr. Mira Reisberg is a multi-published award-winning children’s book illustrator and author whose books have sold over 600,000 copies. Besides running the Children’s Book Academy, she is also an acquiring Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s book imprint Spork. Mira is also a former children’s literary agent, and a university professor who taught kid lit writing and illustrating courses as well as teacher ed. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s literature and has helped many writers and illustrators get published. Her job at Spork allows her to help even more people (although of course she can’t guarantee that everyone will get published, many of her former students have been).

Learn about us and our courses at Children’s Book Academy

Like us on Facebook

Join our interactive FB Group

Find us on Twitter

Follow us on ​Instagram

Look for us on Pinterest

​Watch us on YouTube

We really hope that you can find a way to join us and learn even more about children’s book writing and illustrating. Xoxo

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 1, 2021

Book Giveaway: DEAD WEDNESDAY by Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli has a new middle grade book DEAD WEDNESDAY and published by Knopf Books for Young Readers. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

Just 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 how you shared the good news. If you follow my blog and have it delivered daily, let me know in the comments 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 Jerry.


Fans of Stargirl and Maniac Magee rejoice! Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli delivers a brilliant new novel about being bold, and taking charge of your life.

Worm Tarnauer has spent most of eighth grade living down to his nickname. He prefers to be out of sight, underground. He walked the world unseen. He’s happy to let his best friend, Eddie, lead the way and rule the day.

And this day–Dead Wednesday–is going to be awesome. The school thinks assigning each eighth grader the name of a teenager who died in the past year and having them don black shirts and become “invisible” will make them contemplate their own mortality. Yeah, sure. The kids know that being invisible to teachers really means you can get away with anything. It’s a day to go wild!

But Worm didn’t count on Becca Finch (17, car crash). Letting this girl into his head is about to change everything.

Jerry Spinelli tells the story of the unexpected, heartbreaking, hilarious, truly epic day when Worm Tarnauer discovers his own life.


DEAD WEDNESDAY began with a letter from a teacher. Maybe 10-15 years ago. To my everlasting regret, I cannot find that letter. Meaning in the Thank You section I could not thank by name the angel of a teacher who sent the letter.

But I never forgot it. The letter described a tradition in her middle school whereby, on a designated Wednesday every school year, each eighth-grader is required to be “dead” for the day. This means each of them dons a black shirt. This means each of them, all day long–in the classrooms, the corridors, the restrooms–is ignored by both students and teachers. They are invisible. They are “dead.”

The idea is to give the kids a sobering taste of reality before they are released to the temptations and perils of high school. For the day each eighth-grader assumes the name and identity of a student in the state who died the previous year.

A writer knows when a story is there. The problem is panning for it–shaking and sieving out the gold. For years that’s all I knew: there was a story there. When I finally got around to panning for the gold, I discovered something unexpected: this was a “ghost story.” But I don’t do ghost stories! Hah! New lesson: be nimble, writer. When the story is right, change your identity.

So I began with a title and fading memories of a lost letter and made up the rest. I hope you like it.


One day in second grade Jerry Spinelli dressed up in his cowboy outfit, complete with golden cap pistols and spurs on his boots. He went to school that way. It was not Halloween. When the teacher asked if he “would like to do something for the class,” he got up and sang “I Have the Spurs that Jingle Jangle Jingle.”

Shortly thereafter he ceased to be a singing cowboy and decided to become a baseball player. In eleventh grade he wrote a poem about a high school football game. It was published in the local (Norristown, PA) newspaper. He traded in his baseball bat for a pencil and became a writer.

The story of his life to that point is told in his memoir Knots in My Yo-Yo String. His sixth novel, Maniac Magee, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1991 for “The Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children.” His eighteenth book, Wringer, received a Newbery Honor. Several are optioned for film.

Jerry Spinelli’s books appear in more than 40 languages. Anti-apartheid forces in South Africa recruited Maniac Magee to their cause. Village audiences in rural Japan view stage performances of Loser. Stargirl has been translated and distributed throughout the Middle East to encourage peace between Arab nations and the West. Stargirl was nominated One of the Best YA Novels of All Time and Disney+ recently made a movie of Stargirl, which is now streaming on their site. Hollywood Stargirl is now in production with Disney+. Stargirl Societies have sprung up around the world.

Jerry Spinelli lives with his wife and fellow author, Eileen, in Pennsylvania.

DEAD WEDNESDAY is Jerry’s latest book (Number 37). It will hit bookstores on August 3rd. Click  for a list of all Jerry Spinelli’s books.

Don’t miss these free virtual opportunities to spend some time with:

Two Newbery winners Jerry Spinelli in conversation with Rebecca Stead during his Book Launch for Dead Wednesday – August 3rd. 

Newbery Medal-winning authors Jerry Spinelli and Christopher Paul Curtis discussing Spinilli’s new middle-grade novel, Dead Wednesday, and writing for young readers – August 4th.

Newbery Medal winners Jerry Spinelli and Adam Gidwitz spend time talking about Dead Wednesday and books – August 5th.


Click here to read more about Jerry.

You can visit Jerry at:

Jerry, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. It is always exciting to have a new Spinelli book to read. Spending time with this book was a joy. Another home run. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the teacher who wrote that letter to you all those years ago and was the inspiration for this book, reads this? Stranger things have happened. You always have such good stories and this journey is one of them. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 31, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Mira Miroslavova

Mira Miroslavova grew up in the beautiful forests near the city of Sofia, Bulgaria and lived in Manchester, UK where she graduated with textile design and visual art.

Her love for illustration began at an early age and her style was influenced by a mixture of classic fairy tales, beautiful forests, old movies and animations. She likes to experiment and find new hobbies to inspire her and push her to create picture books, comics, covers, editorial and magazines illustration.

Process of “Snow White” for “The collected stories by the Brothers Grimm” Colibri Publishing, 2021

I always begin with a very, VERY simple sketch of my idea. My ideas always come like lightning, so I have to sketch them as they come, raw. Everything is in my head and this is purely for me to have a reminder of what came to my head. I never do any details because I know they might change in the process – usually for the better. I work on things purely compositional so I have an idea of what I am aiming at.

Here is the very first sketch I made of Snow White. I was up in our family country house and the idea came to me right away. The entire concept of the book was about “movement”, everything in the illustrations moves, flows, has a direction and at times comes out of the frame. This one was very vivid.Then I began drawing. I always make the “base” of the illustration with graphite pencils – this one is done with pencils from H3 do B2. I use really hard pencils, I probably should switch things up a bit but I am not done having fun with them for now!
This is one of my three tries at this illustration. I was so excited for it, I never liked how it turned out initially. It took me around 10 days to figure her out. And then she just arrived one morning, I knew exactly how I wanted her to look. Sometimes things take time and it is okay. There is no need to rush them.

When I scanned it, I worked on the contrast a bit and I cleared the imperfections. I also added some details on her clothing – the pattern. I worked with a grey pencil brush in Photoshop for everything – from cleaning and refining the scanned drawing to adding details. But when I looked at it, there was something that was bothering me and I was feeling unsure of it. So I decided to switch things up a bit.

I clone stamped the flowers in Photoshop and decided to finish the flowers digitally after I had coloured the entire drawing. I do that because I colour the drawing on a layer set to multiply and I wanted the flowers to be light yellow – which was impossible to achieve with the grey base of the drawing. At this point I was completely sure how I wanted this drawing to look at the end and I was just going.

Here is the drawing – coloured. This is the first colour version. I did not like the muddy look it had, it looked to messy but decided to refine the colours when I was finished with all the scribbles, details and refinements.

I still felt the same about the colours. It still looked like it needed some enhancement, it looked as if it lacked that final touch so I thought that I should push things up in a different direction. After that I went through the entire book to do the same colour correction to every illustration and I hope I made the right call.

And finally – the illustration was completed. It took me overall about 10 hours to draw her from start to finish. It takes a lot of time to scribble and scratch with the pencils. But once the colours are clear in my head – the rest is easy and its very intuitive.
I really hope you like it! And thank you for reading!

Interview with Mira Miroslavova

How long have you been illustrating?

I have been working in the field for over three years now, professionally, but I was obsessed with illustration long before that. I used to staple pieces of paper together, make up stories and illustrate them when I was 9 years old. It has always been a dream of mine, to work as an illustrator.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I did an album cover design when I was 16 for a local band. It was my first work done with inks as well. They broke up soon after though. I really hope my illustration was not the reason! 🙂

You bio says you studied Textiles and Visual Art at Manchester Academy. After graduating, did you do anything with textile design?

Sadly no, I never worked in that field but I’ve always enjoyed designing textiles. I learned a lot from my teachers there. At the end all that matters is having the right environment to cultivate your love for all the visual arts. And I thank them for doing just that.

Did you go to university to study art?

No, I am self taught in that sense. I have never studied drawing or illustration but it is something I plan on changing. I believe it’s never too late to learn something new and that we should strive to never stop learning.

Have you taken any children’s illustrating courses?

I have attended a lot of seminars and short courses about illustration, because I was very curious of the process and I wanted to be good at what I do. I plan on keeping that up.

What do you feel helped you develop your style?

I believe my parents, especially my mom, has a huge influence in what I do. She gave everything to make sure me and my brother had a good education. And insisted that we read a lot of books and studied hard. So if it wasn’t for her I would definitely not have the literature knowledge and the inspiration to chase my dreams. And the fairy-tales she read to us directly influenced my art style. It is very whimsical and I credit her for that.

What type of work did you do when you started your career?

I worked on magazine covers, book covers, music album covers. Everything I could get my hand onto but I believed that I have to hand pick my work. Even if that means that I will be left with no work at all sometimes. I wanted to make sure I invest my energy correctly so that when the big thing comes along – I would be ready. Of course that did not mean that I would stop drawing. I just drew whatever interested me and I tried to educate myself on my own.

Did you do any art exhibits to promote your work?

I have never done a solo art exhibition. I have participated in a couple group ones and I believe they were a good way to promote my work. I think every artist should do exhibitions. As illustrators, sharing our work is what gives it meaning and value.

When did you decide you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

I knew I wanted to become a children’s book illustrator when I was 17. I was always coming back and back to children’s books, they always excited me and inspired me when I worked.
And one day I just found out it was much easier for me to express myself, I recognized my own voice, when I worked on projects for kids. I used to illustrate books with my own writings and that is something I would love to get back to.

You illustrated a book titled, The Adventures of Lisko in the Forest by Boris Aprilov. Is this a middle grade book with art?

The books about the little fox Lisko are for kids of age around 3 do 8 or 9. Boris Aprilov speaks and appeals to many and is very cherished in Bulgaria, my home country.

How did you get the job to illustrate this book?

The publisher hired me a month before I began working on Lisko, after we had already worked on a project together. They hired me to work as a full time illustrator at the publishing agency, which is not very common to occur. It was a privilege to work on the Lisko series and the other wonderful books we created.You also illustrated Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines by Ray Bradbury. Since I can’t read the cover, language was used and who is the publisher?

Ahmed and the Oblivion Machines is published in Bulgarian by Raketa Publishing. That is the publishing agency that hired me and we worked alongside together for a year and a half.. And they contacted me to work on Ahmed, after they saw my previous book “Princess stories” (my first illustrated children’s book). I had a lot of freedom working on that book and I was very, very excited. It was just a couple of months after I worked on my first children’s book, and there I was with a second one. It meant a lot.

Was Switch On the Night by Ray Bradbury that you illustrated published by the same publisher?

Yes, it is. It is one of the five children’s books I did for them for my time with them. I did a lot of book covers as well and other materials they used to promote the publishing agency.

Did you just illustrate only the cover of Monkey’s Skin?

Monkey’s Skin is an adult novel by the same author that wrote Lisko. I worked on a couple of covers for books written my him.

How many books have you illustrated?

For the past three years since I have been working as a book lllustrator, I have done ten children’s books. I am always very self-critical of my work and I want to improve with each new book I work on.

What was the first book you illustrated?

“Princess stories and other extraordinary events” by Ribka Publishing –
Feels like ages ago. And my style has changed for that time but I am glad I kept some of it intact.

How did you get that contract?

Ribka Publishing (which means Little fish Publishing:)) found me after an interview I have at a local indie art magazine. They were a young couple who had started their publishing agency two years prior to our project together. I was very inspired and motivated but also scared and nervous. I felt like a kid doing adult things. And sometimes I still do which is actually good for our work as children’s book illustrators.

How did you connect with Chad Beckerman at The Cat Agency?

I contacted the agency after a while of hoping and dreaming to work with them. I really wanted to be a part of the team, I admired their work. I knew Chad’s work long before and I was really excited when they replied to me reaching out to them and even more excited when they actually decided to proceed on and work with me. Probably one of the best moments I’ve had in my career.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s Magazines or any other magazines? If so, who?

I have never worked children’s magazines but I have done a lot of work for others. Most of them are Bulgarian but I have worked for a couple in the UK.

Do you have a studio in your house?

I used to have a studio close by my house but Covid made it hard to keep it so I had to move my studio at home. Which is great because my cat is there and he is my stress relief fur ball. I like having a place to go when I work and change up the environment but I can do that if I draw with friends or at coffee shops etc.

Have you ever tried illustrating a wordless picture book?

Never, but it is definitely on top of my to-do list!

Do you work full time as an illustrator?

I do, yes. I used to work as a teacher and I used to do a lot of visual art work, unrelated to illustrating. But illustration has always been my top priority and the thing that gave me meaning.
I come from a modest home so I know that one needs to work hard and to have financial stability, which means that sometimes you have to work things that are not exactly what you hoped for. But you should never lose sight of what is important to you and fight for that.
I do not mind working as a textile designer or a graphic designer but I will always put my illustrations first.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would consider?

Yes, definitely!

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

Thank you, I really hope I do. I think my biggest success is becoming a part of the CAT team. Maybe that shares the first place with a book I illustrated and came out this year, 2021 – The fairytales by the Brothers Grimm. And mainly because it was my dream book. I grew up with them, I was so inspired by them. I dreamed as a kid, honestly I did, that one day I will illustrate that book. And it is the exact same translation done by Dimitar Stoevsky many, many years ago, here in Bulgaria. It felt like one of my childhood dreams came true.

What is your favorite medium to use?

I will always stand behind and support my pencils. I love working with my mechanical pencils on a really nice, smooth, heavy sheet of paper.

Has that changed over time?

It has always been that. I think it is a huge part of my style. Some things may change but I will try to keep that pencil look for now.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

I work with a tablet only when I colour my drawings. It is easier to make changes and frankly it is immensely hard to colour graphite pencil drawings.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

I work with regular graphite pencils – from 3H to 5B. I use mechanical pencils for the details and to define shapes sometimes. My favourite paper to use is the Hahnemuhle paper but I also draw on Moleskine sketchbooks.
I scan my drawings on my Canon scanner and later on I colour my work with my Wacom Intuos 4 graphic tablet.

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I had a hard time establishing a timeframe in which I work. I sometimes worked for 14 hours on and the next day for 7. Now I am trying to establish some ground rules. So I have decided that the 9 do 17 model works great for me. I need to relax, clear my head and to be ready to focus on the next day.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I always do an extensive research on my projects. I go to the library, look up things related to what I am working on, take pictures of things that could be useful, consult friends and family.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

The internet is probably the best and worst thing for an artist. It gives you access to education, there are a lot of videos, blogs etc. that could help you gain knowledge and develop you as an artist. But it is also a source of self-doubt and makes you compare yourself to everything you see. It is something one needs to be careful about.
For me, it has been a huge asset. The power to connect with people all over the world and work together, it is amazing.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would like to work on something extraordinary. That could be anything. And to never stop working on extraordinary things. A big dream!

What are you working on now?

I am working on two children’s books, but I can’t say much now. I will try to behave differently for both of them and do something new and out of my comfort zone (but still with pencils)!

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I would always recommend trying to experiment. I think that every hand has its own preferences and can establish a good correlation between the brain and the material. I have tried paper for inkers, watercolorists, painters and all of them have their charms. Never stop exploring! That will help you find your voice! Just don’t push too hard on the paper – its really hard to erase. That goes on for everything in life.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Lay the foundations first. Don’t try to skip steps in your education and don’t be hard on yourself.

Mira, thank you for joining us this week and taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. It really helps everyone to get to know you. You are a very talented illustrator, so please let us know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone. 

To see more of Mira’s work, you can visit her at:





Talk tomorrow,


Erin Clyburn – Associate Literary Agent

Critiquing four first page for July

Erin joined The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency as Associate Literary Agent in 2019 after an internship and apprenticeship with a boutique literary agency. She has worked as a copy editor and recipe editor in the magazine industry and was general manager and director of collection development for Turtleback Books. She received her BA in English Literature from Mississippi State University and her MA in Children’s Literature from Hollins University. When not working, Erin loves hiking, cooking, traveling, painting, and trying to keep her three rabbits, Felix, Agnes, and Valentino, from chewing up every baseboard in the house.



  • Creepy and scary stories
  • Contemporary with big hearts, humor, and unforgettable voices
  • Mystery, especially with scavenger hunt or puzzle-solving elements
  • Grounded stories with magical or speculative elements


  • Horror
  • Dark contemporary
  • Queer and BIPOC rom-coms
  • Thriller
  • Mystery
  • Magical realism
  • Grounded stories with magical or speculative elements
  • Lush, literary stories


  • Upmarket and book club fiction with great hooks and writing that leans literary
  • Sharp women’s fiction
  • Domestic and psychological thrillers, especially by BIPOC authors
  • Mystery
  • Humorous and satirical novels, with ensemble casts or stellar protagonists
  • Horror of all stripes, especially horror plus other genres, like mystery horror or romantic horror
  • Multigenerational family sagas (I would love one by a BIPOC author set in the South)
  • Grounded stories with magical or speculative elements
  • Southern Gothic


  • Narrative nonfiction or memoir about sports or adventure (Alone on the Wall, Wild)
  • Pop science (Oliver Sacks, Mary Roach)
  • High-interest nonfiction, particularly histories and stories about fascinating people and issues that haven’t been told before (The Radium Girls, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks)
  • Cookbooks and culinary histories
  • Science- or culture-focused memoirs and narrative nonfiction (My Brain on Fire, Educated, Full Body Burden)


  • My favorite books—MG, YA, and adult—are those that are set in our world but with elements of weird: Karen Thompson Walker’s The Dreamers and The Age of Miracles, Marisha Pessl’s Neverworld Wake, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas, Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here, The Riverman by Aaron Starmer. Please send me your weirds!
  • I love stories about food, stories with lots of food, good descriptions of food, etc.
  • An Alabamian, I would love to see diverse Southern voices writing stories set in the South.
  • Across the board, I am looking for projects from underrepresented writers.


Terminal Velocity by Marcy Collier – Young Adult

The plane door slid open with a thud. The whoosh of air struck my face hard, like a skateboard spill onto asphalt but without the road rash. Inching over, barely holding the bar for support, I peered over the edge, secretly daring the wind to exhale its strong breath and spitball me from the plane.

Bouncing on my toes, excitement pulsed through my body, but I had to wait for Reese’s signal. Dad taught me well. Now his best friend tried to fill the empty role.

He stood behind me, tethered by safety harnesses, parachute and backup parachute. Reese held me with one hand and counted backwards from five with his scarred hand. I signaled with a thumb’s up like Dad had taught me during our jumps together. Three. Two. One.

In sync, we jumped, knees bent, head back, arms crossed. Breathless. Head rush. Escape.

Reese signaled with a shoulder tap for me to open my arms wide. Adrenaline pulsed. Wind chafed my skin. As we fell, my math brain quickly calculated the momentum and velocity, seeing the equation clearly in my head like it was printed on the physics whiteboard.

Gaining momentum, heading toward terminal velocity. Wind pushing my back. Free. My weightless body sailed through the air. Buildings, roads and rivers like miniature displays. Seconds ticked away. Our green landing field visible.

“Parachute now.” Reese yelled, then the parachute exploded above us into a prism of colors. My entire body jerked upward like a yo-yo pulled back by its string. My shallow breathing became steady. One ear, then the other popped. Gliding. Peaceful. Floating.

Perfect, blue sky. Billowy, cumulus clouds. Bright sun energized me, if only for a brief, blissful time. The ground below came into clear focus, a sea of green grass dotted with West Virginia wildflowers. Suddenly, the ground rushed me. Reality rushed me. I pushed those feelings from my head. Not now. Let me have one normal, happy moment.


Hi Marcy,

Thanks for the opportunity to read your opening page. For such an active scene, you do a good job here balancing the protagonist’s interiority and the external action. The description of skydiving is really fun and vivid; I especially like that even in the first two sentences, we know what the protagonist’s life is like; you’d only use the analogy “like a skateboard spill onto asphalt” if you were a daredevil/into extreme sports. You do a nice job of varying your sentence structure in this opening page, too, which helps with the energy flow of the page. The only thing I really find myself wondering or questioning is what happens next, but I think that means this page works really well.


Shadow Monsters by Sally Lotz – Upper Middle Grade, Horror

Fog gathers in clumps in the vineyards surrounding our farmhouse, hiding the white stone of The Wall in the distance. I walk down our long gravel driveway, my eyes focused ahead until everything is a blur. I don’t like the vineyard anymore. It’s not like when Sam was alive. I shiver and tug my sleeve over the smooth stump where my forearm used to be, a constant reminder of how I’d killed him.

It’s hard not to think about him. He’s been gone two years ago – today. Luke, I hope he doesn’t remember. Since he’s my best friend, he will, and he’ll try comforting me too in his weird Luke way. Comfort is what I don’t want. I shove my only hand into my pocket and rub my thumb along the cold, sharp edge of Sam’s knife, the only thing I have left of him. That and the grainy Polaroid picture of that day, the sun catching behind him like a halo, Buddy sitting next to him. But that was never his. It was always mine.

I stand at the end of the driveway, the toes of my dusty shoes at the edge where the gravel meets the road and face the small shelter that had once been the school bus stop. I push away the memories of waiting for the bus, excited to go to school. It was different then. Now, school is a place to get a meal and get out of the house. We don’t learn anything new.

The wind tugs at my jacket and tousles my hair. I hear my name, Winnie. It’s as clear as if Sam were calling me. I spin around, expecting to see him behind me, forgetting the nightmare I’m living. Of course, there is no one, nothing, except the clumps of fog and my home in the distance; its windows dark, a thin plume of smoke drifting up from the stone chimney. Shivering, I turn back. Pulling my hood up, I cover my ears, so I won’t hear him anymore. The place where my hand once was and the scar on my forehead both ache. I turn and walk down the middle of the crumbling street, focusing my mind on things from before.


Hi Sally,

Thanks for the opportunity to read your opening page. My first impression is that this feels more like YA than MG; the content feels like it’s going to be on the mature side, with potentially more violence than would normally be in upper MG. There’s a lot of information in this opening page, which makes it difficult to feel grounded, especially since all of the information being conveyed is about things that happened in the past. In just one page, we learn of Sam, Luke, and Buddy, but as it’s all exposition, it comes across as a barrage of information since we’re only in Winnie’s head with no other action or dialogue, and the reader doesn’t know who these characters are. The atmosphere here is really nice, but it feels more like you’re communicating backstory than starting the plot.


CreamTop Academy by Amy Greenhouse

The poodles stopped prancing.  The bears stopped juggling.  Tony the Clown adjusted his red wig.  The spotlight danced around the Big Top until it found me and Papa in the center ring.

I wiped my sweaty hands first onto my blonde crew-cut hair and then onto my black fire- retardant bodysuit.  I took three batons from Papa’s hands and waved them at the cheering crowd.  I juggled the batons for a minute or two, avoiding my father’s glare. Faking a big smile, I caught one of the batons and bopped myself on the head before returning it to somersault with the others.

I scanned the tent and saw Mama and Zenon standing in the shadows outside the ring, Mama with a stiff smile, Zenon with a smirk.  If only I were like Zenon, stuffing my pockets with knives or matches. That would make Papa proud.

“Light them now,” Papa directed through gritted teeth.

“Can’t I just juggle a bit, to warm up? Get it?  Warm up?”

Papa didn’t smile.  Ugh, why couldn’t I have been born into a clown family?  The worst that could happen would be getting stuck in a small car.

“Enough fooling around,” Papa commanded.

“I don’t want to do this,” I begged.  “I’m not ready.” I
“You should have paid better attention in practice.” Papa flicked a match across the gold that capped his front teeth. “Don’t disappoint me.”

With trembling hands, I dipped the baton into the chalice of charcoal lighter fluid. Papa lit the baton and red, gold and blue flames shot into the air like deadly flower petals. I started to spin the flaming baton. First one, then two, then three. But the flames were just too close, too close and too hot.


Hi Amy,

Thanks for the opportunity to read your opening page. The opening scene is really fun here; I love how you start the story with the circus performers. The imagery here all around is really nice—the dad flicking the match on his gold teeth, the juggling bears, the colorful flames from the baton. The dialogue is strong too; I feel like I know who this family is and a bit of what their relationship is like, as well as the main character’s feelings about their currently situation. My advice here would be to be careful about varying your sentence structure; some of the paragraphs start to feel monotonous: “I wiped… I took… I juggled… I caught… I scanned.” If you vary these a bit more, it will make your opening page that much stronger.


What Would Gwen Do? by Sheryl Stein – Contemporary WF


There’s not enough Zoloft in the world to help me survive this party.

As I sat cross-legged atop the tapestry-patterned loveseat, my elbow carried the weight of my aching head as I watched my big sister Melanie suck all the love, laughter, and oxygen from our parents’ living room. I’d promised to keep my cell off for the duration, trading that particular umbilical for my somewhat-tenuous family one. The deep forest green walls, combined with the cloudy New Jersey day sneaking in through the blinds, smothered my soul. An inch of Pekoe’s black tail stuck out from beneath the nearby velvet couch. Envying the life choices of my mom’s cat? Totally.

Aunts, uncles, cousins, and people I’d never seen before thronged my sister and her fiancé, Alex. My mom beamed, her second? Third? Vodka- and lime-filled highball waggling in one hand while she pointed like an insistent compass at my sister with the other. Per usual, it was all about Melly. Pitying glances darted my way from her rapt audience. I loved my sister, but I didn’t love being parentally portrayed as the Goofus to her Gallant. Perpetually. I exhaled my disappointment, secretly stalked the Insta profile of a jerk from high school, and buried my phone again to scan the room, zeroing in on Dad.

My father’s rebellion began with the removal of his suit jacket. After draping it over a chair, he studied the room, then locked eyes with my mom, who was consumed in conversation. Noting her distraction, he hustled to the hors d’oeuvres table and piled a plate high with latkes and cocktail-sized Hebrew Nationals. I stared as he decorated the mini dogs with a healthy mound of Heinz, looking side to side and grinning like the cat who ate the canary.

Spooning a blob of applesauce on his plate, he turned and noticed me staring. The fine china tipped to one side; one little hotdog rolled off and splatted onto the floor.



Hi Sheryl,

Thanks for the opportunity to read your opening page. The humor here is really fun; after just one page I feel like I know this family and what their dynamics are. Watch for the verb tense shift between the first sentence and the rest of the page. While the voice is really great, I find myself wanting to see the protagonist involved in the story around her, rather than just watching. We do get some interiority and learn about her feelings, but she’s just an observer, and with such an active scene going on around her, I wish she was a bit more active in it than just sitting on the couch trying not to look at her phone. Even if it’s just a blip of interaction with the cat, the sister, the dad, something like that, I think it would help her feel more like part of this scene than just a viewer.


Thank you Erin for taking the time to read and share your expertise with us. This was so helpful. Hope we can work again down the road. Keep in touch.

Talk tomorrow,




Susan Hughes has a new picture book WALKING FOR WATER, illustrated by Nicole Miles and published by Kids Can Press. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is 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 other things you do 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 Susan and Nicole.

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 receive an extra ticket. Thanks!


In this inspiring story of individual activism, a boy recognizes gender inequality when his sister must stop attending school — and decides to do something about it. Victor is very close to his twin sister, Linesi. But now that they have turned eight years old, she no longer goes to school with him. Instead, Linesi, like the other older girls in their community, walks to the river to get water five times a day, to give their mother more time for farming. Victor knows this is the way it has always been. But he has begun learning about equality at school, and his teacher has asked the class to consider whether boys and girls are treated equally. Though he never thought about it before, Victor realizes they’re not. And it’s not fair to his sister. So Victor comes up with a plan to help.

Based on a true story of a Malawian boy, award-winning author Susan Hughes’s inspiring book celebrates how one person can make a big difference in the lives of others. It’s a perfect starting point for children to explore themes of gender inequality and unequal access to education, as well as the lack of clean water in some parts of the world. Nicole Miles’s appealing artwork in this graphic novel / picture book hybrid format adds emotional context to the story. Also included are information about education and water availability in Malawi, resources and a glossary of Chichewa words. Part of the CitizenKid collection and featuring a growth mindset, this important book has links to social studies lessons on global communities and cultures, as well as to character education lessons on initiative, fairness and adaptability.


Back in 2017, I was doing some online research for a children’s story I was working on when I happened across a remarkable photo essay written by a journalist named Tyler Riewer and with photos by Esther Havens.

The photos were compelling; the words were few but told a powerful story. A young boy in Malawi, learning in school about gender equality, sees his own sister must give up school as soon as she is old enough to collect water for their family. As in many places around the world, in Malawi, walking for water is the traditional role of the girls and women. The boy decides it isn’t fair to his sister and takes action. He begins doing the walk himself, accompanying the girls and women, so his sister now has time to return to school.

I was so impressed with his love for his sister, his sense of justice, and his courage to make a difference.

I decided this story needed to be shared with young readers and I got to work writing a manuscript. While working on it, I contacted Tyler Riewer, the journalist who wrote the online essay. I asked if he was okay with me using his story for inspiration and basing the story on this real child. I explained I would be adding dialogue to the story and tweaking some of the content to provide context to young readers. Tyler said he thought it was a lovely idea, suggested changing the boy’s name to protect his privacy, and offered to provide details and try to answer any questions.

Of course, I took him up on this, peppering him with questions as my story took shape, and he was really great about answering as many of them as he could. He helped guide me what he had observed and experienced during his time in Malawi so the story could be as authentic as possible.

When it was done, I sent it along to Yvette Ghione, then Editorial Director at Kids Can Press. I suggested it would be a good fit for their Citizen Kid series, which is “a collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.”  Five days later, Yvette wrote back to tell me of her interest and asking if I’d like to work with editor Stacey Roderick on developing the story further before it went to an acquisition meeting.

Would I? Of course!

Stacey had many wonderful suggestions about the text, as always, and so when it was eventually presented to the acquisition team, they liked the story very much (yay!) and in July 2018, the story was contracted.

Stacey and I continued to polish the manuscript. In fact, Kids Can suggested they would like to have it illustrated with panels, almost like a graphic novel picture book. This was such a super idea—so appealing to younger kids! We revised the text to work with this new format, and meanwhile Kathleen Keenan, one of the super in-house Kids Can editors, came onboard the project.

I was so excited when she told me that Nicole Miles would be illustrating the story. Have a look at the interior page images here in this blog and you’ll know why. Nicole’s art is colorful, vibrant, and inviting—so perfect for a story which gently explores some challenging and vital concepts gender: equality and water security.

As well, thanks to a connection kindly set up by Allen LeBlanc, director of the literacy NGO CODE, I was able to get in touch with Malawian-born journalist Victoria Maele who readily agreed to read and authenticate several drafts of the manuscript, including the final one. Malawian professor Lucinda Manda-Taylor generously offered her time to read the final manuscript and review the illustrations, making sure they accurately reflected what life in a village in this specific part of Malawi was like. Wherever they found mistakes or discrepancies in the story or illustrations, we changed these details. And I was grateful for the assistance of Professor Sam McChombo, an expert in the Malawian language Chichewa. He checked I was using the correct words in the text and helped create a pronunciation guide so readers can say the words aloud.

I could go on and on, sharing more details and enthusing about how much I enjoyed working on this project with so many experienced and supportive experts!


Susan Hughes has always loved writing. When in grade five and six, she and several friends had a writing club. They met every few weeks and read aloud their poems and stories to one another. They always began by pointing out something they liked about each piece of writing; and they always learned a lot from each other’s critiques. She and another friend wrote stories and non-fiction articles and created many issues of their self-published The Horse and Bridle Club magazine. They even sold copies to friends at school and the stable where they took riding lessons!

After finishing a university degree in English at the University of Toronto, Susan was thrilled to work at a children’s publishing company where she had the opportunity to research, fact-check, write, edit, and proofread—seeing books through from the concept stage to the final in-hand product. It was thrilling! She also began to work on her own stories and submit them to editors at traditional publishing companies.

Soon after, Susan began freelancing—and she has never stopped! An editor, story coach, writer and author, Susan works with writers, both novice and experienced, providing critiques and developmental edits, and guiding them in their writing practice. She also works with educational and independent publishers to develop books for children on topics from geography and history to science and Aboriginal studies for a wide range of grade levels. She writes commissioned stories and articles for many clients.

Susan is thrilled to have more than 30 traditionally published children’s books, including picture books, chapter books, MG novels, young adult novels, both fiction and non-fiction for all ages, with publishers such as Scholastic Canada, Kids Can Press, Owl Kids Books, and Annick Press. Her books have received multiple nominations for awards, including the Forest of Reading awards, the TD Children’s Literature Awards, and the Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Literature.

She has been delighted to serve as juror for many book awards and volunteer her expertise with CODE and the CNIB.


Twitter: @childbkauthor




Nicole Miles is an illustrator + cartoonist + hand-letterer + designer

Nicole is from The Bahamas, but she is currently living in West Yorkshire (UK) with her pet snake and human boyfriend. After five and a half years of designing cards for Hallmark UK, she jumped into full-time freelance life in January of 2020. She’s worked with a variety of clients including the New York TimesBuzzfeedSeal PressDavid Fickling BooksAARP Sisters LetterBust Magazine and Bitch Magazine. My comic Barbara (ShortBox, 2017) was nominated for an Eisner award.

She has been asked to speak to BA Hons Illustration students at Cardiff Metropolitan University (several times) as well as at the Afro Futures Un-conference (2019) in Birmingham. In 2018, Nicole became a Special Visiting Lecturer for Sheffield Hallam University where she gets great pleasure in doing occasional teaching sessions with first year illustration students.

Her favourite form of procrasti-working is always some sort of creation whether it be bettering her hand-lettering, making animated gifs, chronicling silly life moments or informative sustainability tips in comic form, experimenting with film photography or sewing new garments for herself. But she also dedicate a lot of time to improving her second language (French), reading and, recently, going on forest walks.

Thank you Susan for sharing your book and journey with us. I love how you discovered this true story and knew it had to be told. It inspired you and now I am sure, Walking For Water will inspired children to be courageous like the young boy in your book. Who knows how many children will be inspired to make a difference in this world, all because you found that article and shared the story with all of us. Nicole did a wonderful job bringing life to this story. Good luck with the book!   

Talk tomorrow,


Here is a chance to virtually join Jerry










Last Wednesday I announced the following:

FIND YOUR STORY – Authors and Illustrators: Send a quirky picture or a picture with some kind of action (drawn or photograph) and the Picture Book Whisperer (Mira Reisberg) will help you find your story in it.

The first two submitted will start next Wednesday, if Mira gets two this week. Please send to Kathy(dot)temean(at)hotmail(dot)com. Put FIND YOUR STORY SUMISSION in the Subject Box. 

Since no one submitted anything, so I sent Mira one of my old illustrations to see what she would suggest and let you see how it works. You don’t have to be an illustrator, you could send in a photo. This is a great opportunity. Mira has help so many writers and illustrators. Don’t miss out on a chance to connect with Mira. Send in something.

First of all Kathy, this is a lovely piece of art and thank you for participating in this little Find My Story Fest. When I look at this image the first thing I get, of course because of the age difference, are siblings, and for me, that brings up a choice of three different ways to go: 1 it’s a sibling rivalry story, or 2 it’s a wonderful big sister story, or 3 it’s a combination of both:

Everyone loves May, she’s bigger, smarter and can do so many different things. Whenever I want to do something that May is doing, Mom and Dad say, “When you’re older like May.” But will I ever be as old as May? I try and do the things that she does, but I always mess them up. [Give three examples of things that the younger sister tries to do and fails at]. One day May takes me for a walk in the garden. But I’m scared. The plants look like monsters to me, even the water container looks scary. And parts of it are really dark in there. May takes my hand and tells me, “It’s all gonna be OK.” As we walk, I start seeing wonderful things close to the ground. Things that May doesn’t notice because she’s always looking up. I point them out to her. She bends down and kisses me and says, “You’re the best little sister ever.” And you know what? She’s right.

Possible titles:

Big Sisters Are The Best! Or, Make Me Like May

So Kathy, first of all, I want to use the disclaimer that I use in all our course critiques and individual critiques: As many people as see this, that’s how many opinions you’ll get. So, take what you like, and leave the rest.

Now if you wanted to follow up and create a story from this, you’d combine those first two elements: sibling rivalry and wonderful big sister and amplify elements in both of them. It wouldn’t necessarily be a big plot-driven adventure story, although it could be, but as is it would be more of a heart and soul character-driven story as the little sister gets over her jealousy and sees both how wonderful her big sister is and claims her power as being wonderful too. I hope this inspires you to follow where it goes.

And for anyone else, have a look at magazine pictures, or your own pictures, and ask yourself – what stories might lurk in here that kids might like or that might have universal truths for kids?

Sending creative love,


Thank you Mira! You have filled some blanks for me. I am looking forward to what you come up with for others.

Dr. Mira Reisberg is an Editor and Art Director at Clear Fork Publishing’s children’s book imprint Spork, and the Founding Director of the Children’s Book Academy. So far, her students have published or contracted over 670 children’s books! She is excited to be hosting the 2021 Picture Book Palooza featuring 26 presenters, prizes and giveaways, worksheets and handouts, and some fantastic submission opportunities all for only $59 right here:

In a former life, not too long ago, Mira was a literary agent and a children’s literature professor. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on kid lit. Find her at the Children’s Book Academy at or on Twitter @ChildrensBookAc



I do not have an email or address for the following:

Kristen REDBIRD twitter: @robinlorikeet won BEACH TOYS VS. SCHOOL SUPPLIES by Mike Ciccotello 

If anyone knows Kristin or Robin, please let her know she won Mike’s book. or give her a tweet. Thanks!


Suzy Leopold won BRANCHES OF HOPE: THE 9/11 SURVIVOR TREE by Ann Magee

Marcie Kramer won LITTLE CALABASH by Margo Sorenson


Please send me your address to kathy.temean(at)hotmail(dot)com. Thank you!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 27, 2021

Book Giveaway: THE PERFECT PARTY by Laurel Jackson

Laurel Jackson has a new picture book THE PERFECT PARTY, illustrated by Hélène Baum-Owoyele and published by Yeehoo Press. They have agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States.

All you have to do to get in the running is 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 other things you do 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 Laurel and Hélène.

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 receive an extra ticket. Thanks!


A delightful story about the beauty of different cultures and the strength of collaboration.
It’s Little Robin’s birthday, and all the zoo animals want to help him celebrate! Yet with each animal comes different ideas from around the world. So how does one plan the perfect birthday party? First, there’s music! As all the eager creatures join in for a birthday song, what should have been harmonious music turns into chaos: mooing, yelping, braying, and squawking! And then there’s the food! Everyone has their own favorite meals, and no one can agree on anything. But amidst all the noise rings one true note–the recipe for a perfect party? Friends who want to celebrate!
From author Laurel Paula Jackson and illustrator Helene Baum comes a delightful story about the beauty of different cultures and the strength of collaboration. Make this your special gift for any young reader and animal lover celebrating a birthday!


My most beautiful and memorable childhood memories are wrapped around experiences of food and travel. Every single year my parents would take me and my two brothers to a different country around the globe, where we would experience a new culture, meet new people, learn different languages and eat deliciously different types of food.

I enjoyed the distinct characters and flavours of the various cultures, and the more I travelled, the more I realised that human beings have so much more in common that they have differences.

Shortly after I moved to Germany, I read a book to the daughter of a friend of mine. The book was a farm book. I tried to make the reading lively by imitating the animals sounds. The second I made the rooster sound, as I know it in English, cockadodldoo-the little girl daughter broke out laughing and told me that roosters say kikeriki, not cock-a-doodle-doo.

I was intrigued to discover that each animal has its own distinct sound in each language.

I assumed that cats always meowed, and that frogs always ribbit.

Not at all. Each culture has their own interpretation of how animals sound and when my daughter asked me if animals from various countries have different languages like people, the idea for the perfect party was born.

The initial drafts were chaotic conversations between the various animals, lacking an appealing plot, in my opinion.

I held a cooking class for a group of international children to help them to get to know each other, despite their linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The idea was to allow each child to create their own muffin recipe and share it with the group. In the end, they all collaborated to create a massive batch of muffins. Each child added their own personal ingredients as they took turns stirring and mixing and adding. I was not expecting a tasty end result, I must say. However, to my astonishment, the end result was simply magnificent and the children loved what they are collaboratively created.

And that was it. The perfect recipe was created for the book! I completed the book fairly quickly after that experience and let it sit for a while, trying to decide what my next step would be.

A friend of mine read through the manuscript, loved it and said that she had the perfect illustrator for it.

I invited my friend and the illustrator, Hélène over for a lunch. Hélène read through the manuscript , loved it, and within a couple of weeks, sent me her drawings of a couple of pages. It was a delight to see the characters come to life and I immediately fell in love with her flowing lines and soft colours. We were a team from that moment.

I was told that is not standard at all to submit a manuscript to an American Publishing house along with the illustrations, unless you are a writer/ illustrator. A writer and editor friend of mine suggested that I submit my manuscript to international publishing houses since I am based in Berlin, Germany but wrote the manuscript in English.

Helen Wu was featured in a blog post that really grabbed my attention and I decided to submit to Yeehoo press. I received an offer a few weeks later and will never forget that day. It was my daughter’s 6th Birthday. It was also the day that she asked me what I wanted to become when I grow up. Clearly my work as a global educational consultant did not impress her in the least. I laughed nervously at her question. Before I could even think of a response, I heard my voice say: I want to become an author to inspire children around the world to relays how connected we are.” I was shocked at how easily those words flew out of my mouth. My daughter replied with another question: So, where are your books, then?

That was the day that I committed to follow my dream of becoming an author and am delighted that Yeehoo is publishing my first book.

Working with Yeehoo Press has been a delight. Due to the various versions in Chinese and English, there was a bit of alteration in both text and illustration to ensure that we were being culturally sensitive. The core message of the book is twofold: It is about the importance of collaboration. It also indicates that every single person has something beautiful to offer.


Laurel P. Jackson, PhD grew up in several countries around the world and writes stories that inspire readers to think about their connection to others. Laurel works as an international educational consultant for governmental institutions and has initiated a number of projects to empower children. She lives in Berlin, Germany and loves creating delicious recipes for friends and family. You can visit her online at:


Hélène Baum-Owoyele is an afropean illustrator and graphic designer living in Berlin.​ Her artworks have been used in various contexts, from editorial pieces and children’s books to advertising, with clients such as:

The New York Times, Vox, Harvard Business Review, WDR, Radcliffe Magazine, Branch, New Statesman, Tate, Psychologie Heute, C40 Cities, Scoop Magazine, Penguin Random House, Hasso-Plattner-Institut, CFFP, Octopus Publishing Group, The Washington Post’s ‘The Lily’, Familiar Faces, Women Who Do Stuff. You can visit Hélène at:

Laurel, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. This really looks like a fun animal party. You cooked up a great Party recipe for this book and Hélène made us feel like we were part of the bash., Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 26, 2021


Heart & Soul in KidLit

Hey ho, fellow Creatives!

Because 2020 was so tough, everyone is looking for good stories with heart and soul to balance the sometimes-overwhelming negatives many of us are still going through. Not just for ourselves but also for younger audiences. We want kids to find and read stories that reflect goodness and a spirit of community. So, we looked to our published former students for a much-needed dose of heart and soul.

Here are four former students and panelists from the Writing Picture Books with Heart and Soul panel in the upcoming Picture Book Palooza, happening September 18th and 19th. Each one of them has different experiences creating books that speak to readers on a deep heartfelt level. It’s not easy writing books that speak to a person’s soul, but these four have created wonderful books the whole family will love.


Multi-award-winning author Donna Barba Higuera knows that life can be complicated. She likes to deal with these issues in a heartfelt way, mixing heart and soul and culture to help children deal with their own problems. Her book El Cucuy is Scared Too! Is about a boy named Ramón who has just moved and is starting a new school. Everything is too scary for Ramón. He meets El Cucuy, aka the Mexican boogeyman, who is also scared. Ramón helps El Cucuy to be less afraid which helps Ramón deal with his own fears. Donna will be sharing techniques and presenting on: Combining Heritage, Humor and Heart.

Rosie Pova has always written from the heart, and her most recent picture book is no exception. In Sunday Rain, Shy Elliott has just moved to a new neighborhood and longs to play with the other kids frolicking in the puddles on a rainy day. Encouraged by his mother, he takes his toy boat outside for some imaginary and wet adventures and soon feels at home with new friends who restore our faith in the inherent kindness of children. Rosie’s books often leave readers in tears, which is a good thing. She’ll be sharing techniques and speaking about: Writing Stories That Touch the Heart


Karen Yin devotes her life to helping others with things like her Editors of Color and Conscious Style Guides. Her debut picture book Whole Whale is about making space for everyone. There are lots of animals of every shape and size, but what happens when a huge blue whale comes along? If all the animals work together maybe they can make space for even the biggest mammal. She’ll be sharing techniques and presenting on: Hearts Wide-Open to Care for Others, sharing techniques and her and other’s books.

Rita Loraine Hubbord believes you are never too old to learn. In her book The Oldest Student, she recounts the tale of how Mary Walker learned to read when she was over 100 years of age. In this book Rita answers the question of why Mary Walker didn’t learn to read until she reached the age of 116. This is a touching story sure to pull at your heartstrings. Rita will be sharing about: Writing Social Justice Biographies with Heart and Soul

We hope these examples of heartfelt and soulful kidlit creativity inspire you to look for fictional and real-life examples of kindness and goodness to share. We’ll be exploring this topic even more in a panel dedicated to picture books full of heart during our upcoming Picture Book Palooza. Running 2 days (September 18-19th), this lovefest and kidlit extravaganza will feature 6 panels, more than 26 presenters, giveaways, handouts, and so much more.

Whether you’re at the idea stage, ready to begin planning your story, or you’re an established author who wants to expand into new areas of KidLit (and maybe even pull in extra profit while you’re at it), you’ll find lots of helpful materials at this low-cost, fun-filled, lovefest & learning extravaganza AKA the Picture Book Palooza.

Hope to see you there!

Sending much heart and soul,
Mira & the CBA gang xoxox

PS Each of these authors is a former Children’s Book Academy graduate paying it forward to others, and each, apart from Karen Yin, who will be, is an award-winning multi-published author.

Mira’s bio: And here’s my keyword bio to save time. Multi-published, award-winning, children’s book creator with over 600,000 copies sold, CBA director, currently acquiring Editor and Art Director at Spork, former kidlit agent, former kidlit and art ed university professor, PhD in Education and Cultural Studies focused on kidlit. Students have been very successful. I love what I do. Mira is over the moon excited to be co-teaching the up-coming illustration course with multi-published former student/wonder woman Larissa Marantz who helped design the original Rugrats, and exquisite Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Art Director Andrea Miller.


Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 25, 2021

Book Giveaway: OBI’S MUD BATH by Annette Schottenfeld

Annette Schottenfeld has a new  picture book titled, OBI’S MUD BATH, illustrated by Folasade Adeshida and published by Spork. Annette has agreed to send a book with one lucky winner living in the US.

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.

Thank you for helping Annette and Folasade.


Zimbabwe is having a dry spell, and it’s way too hot for young rhino Obi. On the hunt for a cool, ooey, gooey, mud bath, he gets his snout stuck in one mess after another. Finally, with help from his new friends, Obi realizes that teamwork and some fancy moves – might just help beat the heat.

Inspired by an actual event, Obi’s Mud Bath includes Common Core Connections and explores themes of perseverance, friendship, and the power of believing.

** A portion of this book’s proceeds will be donated to, an organization which empowers families around the world with access to safe water and sanitation.


My book journey for Obi’s Mud Bath began when a news article caught my eye. On a scorching day in Zimbabwe a little rhino named Mark was searching for juicy greenery. Unfortunately, there was litter on the ground and his snout became stuck in a tire, leaving him unable to eat or drink. A team of vets came to his rescue and Mark made a full recovery. Go Mark go!!!

The scene kept playing in my mind…this little rhino full of determination, exhausted, and then finally free. I envisioned a captivating picture book that could give back by helping the environment. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a cute rhino story!

With the help of my critique partners, I began to define the story arc. Then, I needed to find a way to showcase a main character who was filled with determination, playfulness, and a belief that anything was possible. Hmmm…rhinos love mud baths, and no rain meant no mud. The bones were there, but it still needed the magic that makes everything come together.

The story gained that spark when I took The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books at The Children’s Book Academy during that summer of 2018. The Academy’s founder, Dr. Mira Reisberg – who also became the editor and art director for Obi’s Mud Bath – believed in Obi (and me!) and encouraged me to reach outside the box and enrich my word choices. I wove in lyrical language that included assonance, alliteration, and rhythm and rhyme. Now the story had found its magic!

I set out to research animal friends for Obi who were not predators of one another, as there was no room for a scuffle, and select authentic African names for them. The animals added another layer and were crafted to help with pacing. Showing the friends working together – teamwork – was an important concept to include, as it led Obi to come up with a solution for his problem.

To ensure an accurate depiction of the landscape, cultural appropriateness, and language, I consulted with Esau Mavindidze, a native of Zimbabwe and Shona language expert, who was instrumental as the story’s cultural sensitivity reader.

I was thrilled when Obi’s Mud Bath was acquired by Mira and her Spork imprint at Clear Fork Publishing, with publisher Callie Metler.

Obi’s Mud Bath got another dose of magic when Mira selected and then worked with Obi’s talented illustrator, Folasade Adeshida, who mirrored Obi’s voice in her fabulous illustrations. The result was an adorable character that readers couldn’t help but root for. I was treated to a front row seat as Mira video critiqued the illustration process, which gave me a new perspective when working on final copy edits.

Just like Obi who journeyed to find his mud bath, this story was a journey that led me to my end goal of becoming a published children’s author. It wouldn’t have been possible without my Dream Team, including Mira, Callie, Folasade, Esau, and my writing partners. Thank you!

To all the writers and illustrators out there, remember:

Don’t stop,

Don’t quit,

Decide you can – reach your mud bath!

Additionally, the book has given me the opportunity and platform to make a difference on a larger scale. A portion of the proceeds from Obi’s Mud Bath will be donated to, an organization which empowers families around the world with access to safe water and sanitation. Check out: Shop to Support .


Annette is passionate about writing for children, hip-hop dance, and environmental issues, believing all have the power to change lives. When children read her books, she hopes they find themselves on a journey with new friends and positive takeaways.

She received her degree as a registered dietitian from Syracuse University and her MBA from Hofstra University. Annette currently lives in New York with her husband and two grown children.

Annette has written Obi’s Mud Bath (Spork/Clear Fork Publishing) illustrated by Folasade Adeshida and Not So Fast, Max: A Rosh Hashanah Visit with Grandma (Kalaniot Books) illustrated by Jennifer Kirkham.

You can find Annette online on TwitterFacebook, or


Folasade Adeshida is an illustrator and graphic designer. Based in Lagos, Nigeria, she is passionate about African stories. Folasade grew up on a steady diet of fantasy books and seeks to recreate for African children the same sense of wonder those books sparked in her. When she isn’t illustrating, she is bingeing on true crime podcasts with her cat Odin.

You can find Folasade online on Twitter,  Instagram or

Annette, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I like how you used a young rhino to help children learn that perseverance, friendship, teamwork, and the power of believing can make things happen. Faolasade di a nice job helping you tell that story. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,


Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 24, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Fanny Liem


I am an illustrator with more than seven years of experience. I have worked with a wide range of clients from around the world. I am an excellent listener, which helps to understand the requirements of my clients.

I was born and raised in Indonesia. Since I was a kid, I love to draw. My passion for storytelling and illustration started since the first time I grabbed picture books, which were given to me by my uncle. When I am not drawing, I love watching movies and listening to country music.

On the technical side, I possess vivid imagination that helps me to provide illustrations for the text, ideas, and situations. I am more than comfortable with the use of software related to creating illustrations.

Here is Fanny discussing her process:

Usually I look for inspiration first through Pinterest or Instagram before I start drawing. I’m looking for some interesting perspectives then I try to sketch roughly to plan the composition. After everything looks good,
I will start making the character design then just add some details for some objects and backgrounds. I really enjoy when find some idea for the details. For color planning, I will try some color scheme, moods and then try to mix some possible combinations to make a color thumbnail. After all look good and harmony, I start applying it to the sketch and then add the details like shadow and light.
Color palette
Refining detail

Finished Illustration

Here are a few book covers:


Have you always lived in Indonesia?

Hi!  Thank you so much for having me! Yes, I have always lived in Indonesia

What was the first thing you illustrated that you were paid for?

My first illustration that paid for were greeting cards.

How long have you been illustrating?

I love draw when I was kid but doing illustrating as a job have been about 8 years.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

I ‘m not remember exactly when, but first piece of art I created for money were Greeting cards.

Did you go to art school? If so, where did you go?

No, I didn’t have chance go to art school. After I graduated from high school, I had to start looking for a job to help support my family finance.

Have you taken any classes or courses on illustrating?

Yes, I took some classes from online courses.

What made you decide to illustrate Children’s picture books?

I fell in love with children’s books when I was kid. I was often given a gift of children’s picture books from my uncle. I never thought to make it into a job. So one time when I was in the bookstore I saw a lot of children’s books on display and I tried to write down all the names of the authors of children’s books. I make some portfolio and wrote emails to some of the authors that I had listed and apparently I got some positive responses and I was given a chance to illustrate their books. Since then, I decided to illustrate Children’s picture book.

Did you take any online courses to help you navigate the world of children’s illustrating?Yes, I did. I take online course at SVS and Domestika to help me.

What type of work did you do, when you first started your career?

I work as a Lay outer and Graphic Designer in the Chinese newspaper media at Indonesia.


Was The ‘In’ Crowd (Life With Stef Book 1) your first illustrated book?

No It wasn’t. My first illustrated book was “The Not So Scary Monster”.

How did that opportunity come about?

I post my portfolio and got from Elance site.

When I checked Amazon, I found nineteen books listed. Were all of them picture books?

Most are picture books and some are middle grade book covers

It looks like all of them were written by self-published authors. How did that all start?

Yes they are, I started my first jobs from Elance and Odesk platform which has now merged become Upwork.

How did you market yourself to authors who wanted to self-publish?

I usually post my portfolio on Upwork site or some group about children’s book in Facebook group. Behance also helped me connect with some self-publish author.

Do you feel living in Indonesia hindered you in any way?

Back then I feel that way but now things have changed. We are very easy to connect with people in other countries on internet and social media so I think that is no hindered in any way now.

In 2016, you had 6 books published that you Illustrated. Was it hard to illustrate that many books in ne year?

Yes, I remember that year I finished illustrating about 10 books. That’s really crazy and stressful. I even don’t remember how can I do that.. Hahah..

You have just joined The Cat Agency. How did you make that connection with Christy?

There is a time I have submitting to many agency but I always get rejected. Christy hasn’t accepted me either at first but she’s willing to take her time to give me some directions and reviews. She is a very kind and caring person. I feel very lucky when she finally offer me representation after I have changed my style direction.

Have you ever visited the USA?

No, I haven’t. I really hope one day I can visit USA. USA is my dream country to visit and I’m a huge fan of America country music.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own children’s book?

Yes, I have. That is my goal.

Are you still interested in illustrating a book for an author who wants to self-published?

Of course, I am still interested and I am still illustrating books for self-publish author.

Have you done any illustrating for corporations?

Yes, I have illustrating some children’s book for corporations now.

Do you take pictures or do research before you illustrate a book?

Yes, I do. Pinterest helped me the most to do research and find my inspiration.

Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, I just finished the illustration for Highlights and Club House Jr. Magazine.

What do you think helped develop your style?

I think I always inspired by Artists that I admire a lot their works like Poly Bernatene, Daniela Volpari, Eda Kaban and many many artists that helped and inspired me to develop my style.


Do you have a studio in your house?

No, I don’t have because my house conditions so only 1 table and chair in the family room for me to work.. haha.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate you own book?

Yes, I have. That is my goal.

What do you think is your biggest success?

I’m just grateful to be able to do what I love to becoming children’s book illustrator.

What materials and/or tools do you use to create your work?

Mostly I use digital work.

Has that changed over time?

I don’t think so.

Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet when illustrating?

Yes, I have.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Not exactly spend specific time but usually I spend most of the day on my craft.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

Yes, I do. Pinterest helped me the most to do research and find my inspiration.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Yes, I really wish can write and publish my own book one day.

What are you working on now?

I am illustrating some children’s book now for Macmillan and Scholastic project.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I’ve tried using watercolors but only for fun. Mostly I use digital to work a project. Tablet that I’m using is Cintiq Pro 16 and I am satisfied using this tablet.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Don’t afraid to fail, allow yourself to explore and never compare yourself to the other artist’s art because it will make us so frustrating but inspired from their works. Just keep learning and you will see how much you grow.

Fanny, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone. 

To see more of Fanny’s work, you can visit her at:






Talk tomorrow,


Older Posts »


%d bloggers like this: