Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 30, 2018

Page Street Kids – PB First Page Results – Kristen Nobles

Kristen Nobles is the founding Publisher of Page Street Kids, the new children’s division ​of Page Street Publishing in Salem, MA. She is focusing on collaborating with new talent and publishing art-led narrative picture books, picture book biographies, visually driven concept books, and selectively, distinct board books. Kristen loves strong characters, stories with heart, a unique style or retro look made new again, and looks for a surprising spin on traditional themes in children’s books.


BABY, BABY! by Barbara Jean Hicks – PB

a picture book by Barbara Jean Hicks

(Ollie, dressed in big game hunter gear, peeks into his baby sister’s bassinet.) What’s the big deal about babies? All they do is eat and sleep and pee and poo and howl their fuzzy heads off. I’d rather have a toad. A rat. A crocodile. I’d rather have a fire-breathing dragon.

(Climbs tree, finds howling baby dragon in nest: WAAHHH!) WOW! Some baby!

(Mom, off-page): Ollie, quiet! Bertie’s sleeping!

Quiet? How do you keep a baby dragon quiet? (Carries dragon into house, tears kitchen apart trying to comfort it.) Not with milk, or apple juice, or mooshy peas. How about…. (Thrusts bottle of hot pepper sauce in dragon baby’s mouth and pacifies it.) Woo HOO!

(Dragon breathes fire, rug or upholstery smokes and smolders: Then, p-SHOOO-oooo….)

Oooo-WEE! Dragon pee! What the heck do dragons use for diapers? (Unsuccessfully tries curtains, tablecloth, quilt.) Not curtains, or a tablecloth or quilt. MAYBE, Dragon Baby…. (Successfully diapers dragon baby in aluminum foil.) Whew!

(Steam emanates from edges of dragon’s newly changed diaper: p-p-p-PFF-t-PFFF-t….)

PEE-YEW! DRAGON POO! (Changes diaper again, clothespin on nose.) Where do you dump a dirty dragon diaper? (Tries toilet, which overflows, trashcan, which melts, clothes hamper, which catches fire.) Not in the toilet or the trashcan or the laundry. OH—I know! (Successfully buries diaper in yard; behind him, dragon baby rolls in dirt, then rubs against Ollie’s legs.) YO, Bro! (Holds dirty dragon at arm’s length.) How do you give a bath to a baby dragon? (Unsuccessful attempts result in fish gasping for breath at edge of pond; kitchen with scattered broken dishes, flooded bathroom.) Not in the kitchen sink or the bathtub or the goldfish pond. And now I’m drowning in drool! Hey—how about… (Pours bubble bath in wading pool; gets in with dragon.)


BABY, BABY! by Barbara Jean Hicks
First page critique by Kristen Nobles

Thanks for the opportunity to look at your first pages, Barbara. Taking care of a fire-breathing baby dragon has great potential for hilarious situations! I can tell you think in vivid picture book imagery since your art notes conjure action-filled scenes. However, I feel you are relying too heavily on the notes to tell the story. Reconsider how we are introduced to Ollie, giving us a bit more information in the text about his character beyond how he’s dressed. Does he love adventure and is bored? Does he want a pet rather than a sister? Is he jealous of the new baby getting all the attention? Ollie has the potential to be a relatable character to any kid in a new sibling situation.

Ollie moves from not being impressed by his baby sister to wanting a toad, then a rat, then a crocodile. And, he finally settles on a fire-breathing dragon. I assume the choice of each animal is to escalate the size and raise the stakes, but I want to feel this in the text more so. Should they all be babies, too? The toad, rat, and crocodile could have appealing adjectives attached to them like “fire-breathing” to amp up the excitement and build to Ollie interacting with an actual dragon. I suggest lingering a bit on how he decides that he prefers a dragon. Consider his voice here as he muses about the animals. It should be unique and authentic.

The transition from talking about, to finding a dragon, seems abrupt and too convenient. Also, the overall problem is confusing since he wished to have a dragon rather than a baby sister – and then finds one! I would guess that he learning to appreciate “the big deal” that is his baby sister by taking care of the more difficult baby dragon? If so, make this clear in the beginning and perhaps compare the dragon to the sister by normalizing the solutions to a crying sister and escalating the howling dragon solutions. You are on the right track here but I don’t always follow the reasoning. For example, when the dragon needs a diaper, why won’t a normal diaper do? Is it a size issue? Curtains, tablecloth and quilt are all very similar — big and along the lines of a diaper in absorbency. Is dragon pee like dragon breath – fire inducing – and needs tinfoil? I’m curious how Ollie will resolve his feelings about Bertie? Happy revising!


CUPID’S TANGO by Nancy Riley – PB

Tap, rata-tata-TAP! The annual prairie chicken dance competition was in full swing. Cupid and his friend, Walter, a burrowing owl, watched from the edge of the dance area.

Dust flew as male prairie chickens stomped and kicked. The hens watched and voted – they were the judges.

“Please welcome Contestant Number 8,” boomed Chuck, the announcer. Cheers erupted from the crowd as the new bird jumped and clicked his heels in a fancy step dance.

“Fantastic footwork!” shouted Chuck. “Look at those scores!”

Cupid watched as fear trickled down from his golden eyebrows to his feathered feet. He was next.

“Now, give a cheer for Number 9!” shouted Chuck.

Cupid fluttered onto the dance floor, kicked, whooped, and flashed his orange air sacs. His heel caught on a rock as he high-stepped. He flipped over and landed on his rump in front of the judges.

Cupid stared at their shocked faces. Even his classmate, Julia, covered a laugh with her dainty wing as he slunk away.

“Aren’t you taking dance lessons?” asked Walter.

“Yes, but I keep tripping over my feet,” sighed Cupid. “I don’t like step dancing.”

“That’s what prairie chickens do,” chuckled Walter. “When I find a girlfriend, I’ll just give her a dead mouse.”

“Lucky you,” grumbled Cupid.

“You need to find your style,” said Walter. “Discover what works for you.”

“I want a different dance – no high kicks, yet strong and bold!”

“Go ask the geese,” suggested Walter.


CUPID’S TANGO by Nancy Riley
First page critique by Kristen Nobles

Hi Nancy! I love that you kick off your manuscript with the sound words “Tap, rata-tata-TAP!” It immediately immerses me in the fantastically quirky world of chicken dance competitions. You also introduce the main characters quickly and get right to the conflict in the story. However, that’s where I get a bit confused. I know Cupid is fearful because you’ve told me in the line, “fear trickled down…” but I don’t know why he feels afraid. Is it the high-kicking dancing steps he hasn’t mastered? The spotlight and attention from the crowd? That he might not be a good enough dancer to find a mate? I’d also rather be shown than told that he is afraid to dance. Maybe he’s pacing, wringing his feathers, or showing other signs of nervousness.

The fact that Cupid, as a prairie chicken, needs to dance to find a girlfriend is hinted at later. Readers might benefit from this information sooner to set up Cupid’s motivation to compete. I’d suggest spending a bit more time developing this so the reader is rooting for Cupid to succeed before his turn in the dance competition. Additionally, I’d suggest building tension up to and during Cupid’s dance and making much more of his failure since this is where you are laying out the problem that needs to be solved. Perhaps “Cupid fluttered onto the dance floor, kicked, whooped, and flashed his orange air sacs” becomes “Cupid slowly fluttered onto the dance floor, kicked through his first sequence, whooped as his confidence grew, flashing his orange air sacs at the brunette hen in the first row. And then…he fell.” The next line is descriptive so could be an illustrator note for a sequence of art instead of text. Visuals may be more powerful at communicating this particular moment.

It seems you are setting up a solution of Cupid visiting various animals looking for a dance style that suits him better than high-kicking? Make sure the strong and bold “style” he finds to get the girl is a clever solution and not too predictable. Since your title features a dance style for two, I’m also wondering if he finds the partner rather than the style first – which could be a great twist! I wish you well in the revision process should any of these thoughts resonate with you.


Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thank you, Kristen! Your comments and suggestions are insightful and I can’t wait to get started on my revisions.

    Thanks Kathy for the wonderful opportunities that you bring to us.


  2. So I am working on my book and read the book details before I read your response. I must say that I agree with what you said. I do appreciate these critiques as it helps me and others learn. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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