Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 31, 2018

Page Street Kids – PB First Page Results – Courtney Burke

Courtney Burke

Courtney Burke is an associate editor at Page Street Kids. She graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and interned at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt before joining the Page Street team. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Boston Teen Author Festival. 

She loves picture books that celebrate imagination and creativity in all forms, humorous stories (dry and meta or fun and silly!), and new twists on folktales.  Additionally, she is interested in picture book biographies focusing on marginalized or unsung heroes, and stories with diverse perspectives and characters. She looks for a strong narrative arc, distinct voice, engaging characters, and an emotional core. Generally, she is not a big fan of rhyming or didactic stories.

Courtney is always searching for stories that bring out magic in the ordinary.



Black text: Submitted text

Red text: Courtney’s comments

Blue text: Refers to Courtney’s red comment


PRICKLES THE BRAVE HEDGEHOG     Picture Book by Barbara Ball

When Prickles was scared, she curled up in a tight spiky ball. She was scared of lots of things.

Lawnmowers. Lightning.

And foxes. Especially foxes. All those teeth! Great introduction!

But more than anything else—even foxes!—Prickles was afraid of being laughed at.

She just KNEW the other animals would laugh at her if she tried to fly a kite. This feels a little abrupt, as we don’t know why Prickles is thinking about flying a kite. Consider how to build up to this idea? She couldn’t run fast like Hoppy the rabbit. What if she couldn’t get the kite off the ground? What if she crashed it into a tree?

She couldn’t swim as well as Quackers the duck, who had big webbed feet, or Sheldon the turtle, who had awesome diving skills (and who always popped back up).

What if she jumped in and SANK?  The other animals would LAUGH at her!

The thought of that made her want to curl up in a tight spiky ball, too.

If she wasn’t such a scaredy-hedgehog, she could even scamper through the meadow with Brushtail the fox! But…all those teeth! What if he wanted to gobble her up as a snack?

Or even worse, what if he LAUGHED at her trying to run on her short, stubby legs?

Tight spiky ball. Again.

This Curling-Up-in-a-Tight-Spiky-Ball habit was getting BORING. Not sure about the word choice of “boring” here. What is really motivating her to change? Her spines were getting all kinked up. And she was lonely.

When Prickles felt lonely, she painted things that made her happy. She knew she was good at THAT, Try to limit the use of emphasis to key moment, so it really has an impact. anyway.

She painted pictures of herself doing things she’d like to do, if she weren’t so scared of being laughed at. She painted herself having fun with friends.  She painted herself brave. What out for repetition, as we’ve seen her imagining these same things.She even painted herself having fun with Brushtail. Like THAT would ever happen…

Editorial note: The opening lines are a great introduction to Prickles! She’s immediately relatable and endearing, and her conflict is clearly defined. Perhaps reconsider the structure and start with Prickles painting to better set up her emotions and her relationship with the other animals. That can segue into the list of things she wishes she could do (fly a kite, scamper in the meadow), and give some context for why. Prickles’ fear of foxes feels somewhat confusing with her repeated desire to be friends with Brushtail. Maybe introduce the idea being friends with the fox more gradually? Is Prickles going to focus on trying one particular activity throughout the text? Think of how you might hint at that towards the beginning to give a sense of where the story is headed. Prickles is dealing with a lot of emotions—loneliness, insecurity, and fear—so try to make sure the focus doesn’t feel too scattered. Overall, there’s a good blend of humor and emotion, and this first page introduces an intriguing premise with room for character growth!


Maria Marshall – KAILANI – PB

Where the river meets the ocean, this feels a little vague. Think about how you might really introduce the specific sense of place and characters?  a sea otter cuddles her tiny baby.

As Kailani floats in her mother’s arms, a giant wave rolls across the ocean.


The otters tumble and spin Consider word choice here – show the danger of being ripped apart. apart.

Snatching Kailani, the wave carries her up the river.

Barely able to swim, she swirls and whirls in the eddies.

Kailani grabs a mass of reeds.

She hangs on tight.

“Mommy!” Kailani squeaks.

The swish and bubble of water lapping the reeds answers.

            At dawn, Kailani’s grip slips. This moment needs a bit more urgency! Can you show more of how Kailani is struggling?

Weak, she drifts along the river.


“What a wee bit of fluff,” says Momma River Otter, peeking from the den.  “You look lost. Stay with us.”

“A sister!” Rowan claps.

“Finally,” Owen says, “someone fun to play with.”

Kailani tries to be a good river otter. Perhaps show more of how Kailani is reacting to this cirmumstance. Is she scared by this family of river otters and being away from home, or just happy to be safe?

But, their food somersaults her tummy.

“Aww, come on. Frogs are yummy,” Rowan says.

The mud floor of their den pokes and rubs.

“Kailani, snuggle with us,” begs Owen.

Editorial note: This first page has some excellent forward momentum and introduction of the conflict. The dialogue is also engaging! When the big wave comes, could the writing give us a better sense of the danger? I’d suggest giving more of an interior look at what Kailani is thinking along her journey to establish the stakes. Consider how you might show more of her emotional state and how she feels about losing her mother throughout. Also, it might be helpful to set up more of their “normal” life at the beginning so we have some context before jumping into everything changing. When Kailani is with the sea otters, how does that experience contrast with what she’s used to? When Momma River Otter invites Kailani to stay, how does Kailani feel about that and why does she make the choice to do so? The wave is what carries Kailani at first, but then make sure to show what her motivations are and keep her journey active instead of passive—at least emotionally.


Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thank you Courtney for your editorial comments and thank you Kathy for this great opportunity. 🙂


  2. Thank you so much, Courtney! Your comments are very helpful, and will help me look at my story in a new light. I hope, after revisions, to submit my manuscript and dummy to Page Street Kids. Thank you, Kathy, for this opportunity!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: