Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 25, 2017

Picture First Page Critique with Alli Brydon

Alli Brydon is a creative editorial professional and writer based in the New York City area. She has nearly 15 years of experience developing and editing children’s books for U.S. publishing houses. Having worked as both an acquiring editor and an agent for children’s book authors and illustrators, she brings a unique blend of skills to all projects. While her specialty is in children’s books, Alli is available to hire for any of your editing and writing needs.

Alli agreed to critiquing 4 Picture Book First Pages: Today is the first of the four.


Mrs. Hillman raised her hand. “Children, attention please. We’re getting a new student today. His name is Georges St. Dragon. I’m sure he’s going to be nervous and shy, so I want everyone to welcome him with open—“

The children gasped.

Georges gamboled to his desk, careful to tuck his tail between his legs.

“This can’t be!” Mrs. Hillman sputtered.

“There are no such things as dragons!”

The children tittered and whispered.

“Georges, what language do you speak?” Mrs. Hillman asked.

“Which would you like? Dragonese, French or English?”

“English will do just fine.”

Georges sneezed.


PJ, thanks for sharing this First Page! This definitely made me want to read more of your story, which a good first page should do. It introduces the main character, Georges, and supporting characters to the reader immediately, and also gives the reader an inkling of what Georges is like without telling us. I loved the line Georges says, “Which would you like? Dragonese, French or English?” as it shows the reader that Georges may be a dragon, but he’s a worldly dragon! That line actually made me question your choice to use the word “gamboled,” which is more playful and energetic than Georges might be, especially as the “new kid” on his first day.

One thing I appreciated is that you didn’t overwrite the text, and you left nice gaps for the illustrator to contribute to the action. I wonder: are you also an illustrator?

While the main character and outlandish situation are introduced nicely on page 1, I am wondering what the main conflict of this story will be. Will Georges find it difficult to assimilate at school? Will the students be afraid of him throughout the first day, ostracizing the new dragon? I couldn’t tell where the story was going to go. A first page should introduce the characters and conflict simultaneously, in order to launch the reader right into the action and give a small hint of what to expect in the story. Perhaps the conflict is in the sneeze, though? Is Georges allergic to school? From the title, I could imagine the conflict could be that the children don’t believe he’s real. But they do see him with their own eyes, and the teacher justifies his existence by engaging with him immediately (which suggests a title change might be in your future…).

Try somehow to work the conflict into the characterization, as well as in the action in this first page. If George’s conflict is going to be that the kids don’t believe he’s real, and so he feels left out, instead of the children “whispering and tittering,” some of them could be ignoring him as if he’s invisible. Maybe the teacher has to direct the class’s attention to the dragon. Perhaps Georges isn’t so showy with his knowledge of three languages, and instead is timid when the teacher asks him questions. This is just one example, of course, but whatever you decide the conflict is in your story, give a hint of it on this first page. Happy revising, PJ!


On her web site, Alli says, “Whether you’re an author looking to self-publish or get noticed by agents and publishers, or you’re an in-house editor with too much on your plate right now, let me make your words sparkle! With nearly 15 years of professional experience as a children’s book industry insider, I am the expert you need to help you craft, edit, and polish your words.”

Alli is an editor, writer, publishing market expert, meticulous proofreader, salesperson, and project manager.  Having worked with almost every publishing house in the US and UK as both editor and literary agent, she has unique knowledge of the many facets of the industry.

She grew up in a family of visual artists, wordsmiths, and readers, who nurtured both the creative and detail-oriented sides of her personality. After she earned her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005, her passion for economical language and evocative imagery led her to a career in children’s book publishing. Equally at home at an art museum or in the library, at the beach or on the ski slopes, reading children’s books with her kids or writing them in her spare time, binging Game of Thrones or hiking in the woods near her Westchester, NY home—Alli balances life with work, perseverance, and good ol’ ink, sweat, & laughs!

Services For Publishers, Authors, Illustrators, and Other Professionals

Developmental and Substantive Editing

Writing/Content Development

Copy Editing


Photo Research

Book Proposal Consultation

Query Letter Critique

Illustrator Portfolio Review

Illustrator Web Site Review

Coaching in Picture Book Writing

Contact Alli to discuss your project and ask about rates:


In the subject line, please write “2017 First Page Picture Book Critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and confirm it’s a picture book 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).



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

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

Please check back next Wednesday for critique number two.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Hey Alli, thanks so much for the critique! Great notes. And no, I’m not an illustrator. I wish I was!


  2. I’m just now seeing this…bummer. I’m sorry I missed the deadline to send in.


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