Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 25, 2021

Book Winners – Fall Writers Retreat – Picture Book Whisperer – Find Your Story


Judy Bryan won DEAD WEDNESDAY by Jerry Spinelli

Nancy Riley won CLOVIS KEEPS HIS COOL by Katelyn Aronson

Dedra Davis won IF YOU EVER MEET A SKELETON  by Rebecca Evans

Winners: Remember to send me you address.



November 13th and 14th  

Agent Emily Keyes at Fuze Literary

Agent Christa Hescke at McIntosh and Otis

Agent Jennie Dunham at Dunham Literary

Agent Penelope Burns at Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners

Agent Amy Giuffrida at Jennifer DeChiara Literary

More details on September 1st., but you can email to ask to be put on the list and choose an agent for a full manuscript critique and an agent for a 25 page critique with another agent. Please tell me about what you would like to submit.



Hi Barbara, I am so delighted to see that you are doing narrative images now after our illustration course, meaning pictures that tell stories rather than just being portraits. And as always you know I love your work because it is just so childlike and warm and fun. Here’s my idea for this image. I would call this story The Most Magnificent Animal on Earth and it’s told from the point of view of an alien on the spaceship. I did one wee tweak to your art, where I changed the angle of the beam just to make it a little quirkier and more interesting. If you paint this again, I’d also add some more sky to the top. But before we continue, here’s the disclaimer that you’ll remember from all of our Children’s Book Academy weekly critiquing sessions, “As many people as see your work, that’s how many opinions you’ll get. So, take what you like and leave the rest.”

And now for my take. The aliens have come to find the most magnificent creature on Earth, and they decide that this cow is it!  

  1. It’s big.
  2. It’s beautiful.
  3. It’s wears high contrast patterns (Alien’s favorite)
  4. It doesn’t eat other animals
  5. It sings when it moos
  6. It comes to you when you play music out in a field
  7. It makes delicious milk which then gets made into cheese and yogurt and ice-cream
  8. Its poop helps other plants grow

BUT there’s a problem with its poop called methane gas, which is helping to warm the planet. 

Uh oh. What can that magnificent animal do about it? It turns out not much. So, the aliens decide to help. They try a bunch of different things and fail, until they discover they can enter dreams and influence people. They come to farmers in dreams and tell them about adding food waste from other places to trap the methane and process it into fuel to create energy for homes and other places that doesn’t add to global warming (See this fascinating article  )

They visit children in dreams and encourage them to ask their families to have one vegetarian day a week. They visit India where cows are revered to learn from the people there, why they think cows are magnificent. 

Finally, during a nap, they come visit me, Barbara Younger, the author and illustrator, to tell me to make this book. Which I did. I hope you like it. But I’m going to leave you with a question – do you think cows are the most magnificent creatures on earth? If not, what is?

Barbara, I hope you enjoyed this informational fiction approach. I certainly had fun with it. I’d love to see you use your beautiful language and art skills to turn it into a magical picture book. 

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, currently 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

If you’d like Mira, agent Charlotte Wenger, or a fabulous mystery editor to help you find your picture book magic, consider joining her in the size-limited and time flexible Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books e-course. We’d love to help you publish wonderful books and you can help us get to 1000 books published or contracted by students. Wahoo! Please, check us out here: 

Thank you Mira for taking the time to come with this great idea for Barbara!

Talk tomorrow,


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