Friday, April 30, 2021

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) by Phaea Crede

Jacket Flap Copy from Book  

Jet is not like any other cat. But when a bird, frog and goat try to convince her that she must be some other type of animal, she finds that she doesn’t fit neatly into any of those boxes either. 

This sweet, zany story reminds us to enjoy the ways we’re unique.

The Story Behind JET THE CAT (IS NOT A CAT)

By Phaea Crede

Illustrated by Terry Runyan

Barefoot Books, May 1 2021

Jet and her love of swimming was inspired by my mom’s cat Eddie, who is obsessed with baths. Since loving water usually goes against everything cats stand for, I tried to imagine what other cats might think if they caught Eddie happily splashing around. I figured another cat (named Tom in the story) would look down on Jet, maybe even tell her she wasn’t a real cat if she liked water.

Tom reminded me of the phenomenon of gatekeepers—people who think they get to tell other people what they can or cannot be, and can or cannot like. Like most kids, I’d faced a number of the gatekeeping-type bullies in my day (one girl told me that my name couldn’t really start with a P if it sounded like an F!). Looking back, I suspect they all those would-be gatekeepers had something they were insecure about that they were trying to hide. And (spoiler alert) all Jet’s bullies do too!

Once I started drafting out Jet’s story, I realized the text was also speaking to something I’d buried deep inside myself: my dyslexia. I’d always loved writing stories, but my learning disability made it hard to master spelling and grammar as a child, and eventually I gave up trying to write creatively. I decided at age 8 that real writers didn’t have dyslexia. 31 years later I have officially proven myself wrong! 

As seriously as I wanted to take Jet’s struggles to figure out what she really was, I also knew I wanted to make the story funny. Since Jet spends the book trying out new identities, I latched onto the idea that the story could “restart” every few pages, getting sillier and sillier. Jet is a cat just like any other cat. Jet is a frog just like any other frog. Jet is a goat just like any other goat! The repetition also was meant to underscore how hard Jet was trying to be “normal”, which she totally rejects by the end. 

Fun Fact: In an early draft of Jet, she also becomes a Martian and a cat-faced dragon from Alpine Folklore!

Once I’d revised Jet the Cat (is Not a Cat) a solid 14 times (shout out to my critique group Friends with Words), I decided it was time to take the manuscript on submission. I was not agented at the time, but through the 2018 NESCBWI Agent/Editor day, I had the chance to submit a story to Lisa Rosinsky, senior editor of Barefoot Books. Barefoot Books is known for their beautiful, socially- conscious books and I suspected Lisa might like Jet. I was right! March 2020, Lisa officially became my editor and Jet the Cat stepped into her full glory thanks to the exquisite art of Terry Runyan.

Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) is a story that means more to me than I even realized when I was writing it, and I can’t wait to share this spunky black cat with the world! Jet the Cat (is Not a Cat) will be published May 1 2021.

Author Bio

Phaea Crede loves writing silly picture books for silly kids. Serious kids, too! Her debut picture book Jet the Cat (Is Not a Cat) will be published May 2021 by Barefoot Books. Phaea lives outside of Boston with her husband, two kiddos, two cats, and a slightly stinky dog named Gus. 

Website Link

Social Media Links 

Twitter: @phaeacrede

Instagram: @phaeacrede

Facebook Group!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

MASSAGING THE MUSE: Three's Company by Lynne Marie

Reprinted from The Writer's Journey, May/June 2007

The number three plays an important role in language, life and literature. As writers, we can try to use the strength, rhythm and logic (not to mention the magic) of the number three to our advantage. 

When things come in threes,  they tend to be funnier, more satisfying and more effective. It is a tried-and-true method to have the main character in a story make three (failed) attempts to solve the story problem before a final scene in which he/she either solves the story problem or comes/does not come to terms with failure. 

I've noticed that some stories, especially those by beginning writers, have one character. If this is true in your case, toss in two more characters (perhaps a friend and a foe) and allow them to interact to make the story come alive and increase tension. Consider Cinderella, who had three opposing forces working against her: the wicked step-mother and two evil stepsisters.  You may want to play around with the possibilities. 

Other uses of three in fiction: Have an action occur (1), and then get worse (2), and then get even worse, or just repeat three actions. See which works best. You may want to use three props, tangible or intangible, to focus your story around or to help achieve your main character's story goal. Others have successfully used wishes, beans, questions, stars, cities and roads to name a few. 

In nonfiction (and fiction), each time you mention a fact--like an actual person, place, or thing, or date--you must have three sources for the publisher to document/back-up that fact. Photocopy or scan or screenshot the cover page, copyright page and the page of the reference book in which the information appears. 

As you can see, three is not only magic, but it's also a writer's friend! 

Lynne Marie is the Owner and Administrator of Rate Your Story and The Picture Book Mechanic critique
and consultation services.  She's the Children's Book Insider (CBI) Editor and Agent Spotlight Feature Editor for Children's Book Insider. She's a multi-published author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (Scholastic, 2011) -- art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011),

Hedgehog's 100th Day of School – art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017),

The Star of the Christmas Play -- art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018),

Moldilocks and the 3 Scares -- art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling 2019 and Scholastic 2019) 

and  Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World --art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019),

American Pie(Dancing Flamingo Press, 2022) and another forthcoming. When she’s not searching for the magic of three, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident waterbirds.

Friday, April 2, 2021

PPBF: Animals in the Sky by Sara Gillingham

TITLE: Animals in the Sky


    Sara Gillingham

PUBLISHER: Phaidon 2020

FORMAT: Board Book 

SNIPPET: Every night when the sky is clear, it's filled with twinkling stars. But did you know that it's full of pictures, too?

If you draw lines between some of the brightest stars, you can find animals. 

Like me! I have two pointy ears and I love to hop. Can you guess what animal I am? 


1.    Although it has fold out sections, it is a sturdy board book and can be enjoyed by little ones. 

2.    The riddles are fun and simple. 

3.    Many kids love the sky, space, planets and constellations and this is a fun book that focuses on animal constellations. 

I'm personally excited about this book as I think my nephew will love it! Reach for your copy of this stellar book HERE.

NOTE: This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Lynne Marie, Children's Author

Thursday, April 1, 2021



 C:\Users\Amy\Documents\H IS FOR HAIKU BOOK COVER PENNY CANDY BOOKS March 2018.jpg


The journey to the publication of H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z , started from a tragic occasion in my family: my mother Sydell Rosenberg’s sudden death from an aortic aneurysm one beautiful October morning in 1996.

As we were leaving the cemetery in Queens, NY, my sister-in-law, Debbie Rosenberg (married to my younger brother, Natha), said (I’m paraphrasing): “We will publish the children’s poetry book she always wanted.”

And thus began the road that took decades for me to walk. That road was anything but linear or smooth.

Syd was a teacher in NY and a published writer. More than anything, I think, she loved haiku. She was a charter member of the nonprofit Haiku Society of America in 1968 ( , an organization I belong to today. She studied, practiced, and wrote haiku for years, and just about up until the day she died.

Mom always wanted to publish a poetry picture book, preferably an alphabet reader. She had created a couple of manuscripts (not all are haiku), and I know she submitted them to publishers. Somewhere among her piles of papers and materials, I have some rejection letters she kept.

When she died, I became paralyzed with grief, depression, and fear. The messy ups and downs of life interfered, including having to figure out care for our father, Sam Rosenberg, who suffered from dementia. But I also allowed them to interfere with realizing her dream. They became my “excuse” for procrastination and inaction.

It took years to tackle my severe emotional inertia, thanks to a terrific therapist, as well as loving family, friends, colleagues, and writers.

Around 2011, I also became acutely aware that time was not on my side. I was now middle-aged. The burden of the goal Debbie had expressed in the cemetery was almost crushing. 

Still afraid, but with some determination, I finally undertook a number of projects to revive some of mom’s haiku for kids. I took small steps. I stumbled and backtracked and fell along the way, but I also made progress. It was hard work and sometimes painful -- but I also had fun, to my surprise. I enjoyed my endeavors and coming up with creative ideas.

In 2016, thanks to a haiku acquaintance, Aubrie Cox Warner, (, I learned about a new independent children’s publisher, Penny Candy Book ( Penny Candy was started by two poets, Chad Reynolds and Alexis Orgera. They were looking for a variety of fresh voices. They didn’t require agent representation. I subbed one of mom’s old manuscripts I had edited. On October 31, 2016, I signed the contract!

On April 10, 2018 – during National Poetry Month – H Is For Haiku was released. The vivid lettering and illustrations are by the extraordinary Sawsan Chalabi (  I wrote the introduction. Syd’s and my decades-old dream had at last come true.

Each haiku in this collection is like a little story, reveling in the small moments that make up our daily lives. The National Council for Teachers of English honored it as a 2019 “Notable Poetry Book.” It also was shortlisted for a 2018 poetry “Cybils” award.

C:\Users\Amy\Pictures\Even In the Air and First Library Card Haiku from H IS FOR HAIKU Sydell Rosenberg February 2 2020.jpg

I am not finished with our journey or reaching for dreams. In 2020, mom’s poetry chapbook, Poised Across the Sky, was released (

I have a second haiku picture book out on submission. This one combines both our work. I’m excited. We will see what happens!

I also have three of Syd’s short stories out to literary magazines.

And I’m pleased and proud to be a member of an extraordinary group of women who write children’s books with Jewish topics, themes, and values. The Book Meshuggenahs website is chock-full of resources, such as coloring pages, activities, and teacher guides. We even held a “chai-ku” contest last year, and received some lovely haiku entries highlighting aspects of Jewish culture and customs. We are conducting a second contest this year too! Please see our website for submission details and prizes, as well aslast year’s winners (deadline: May 31).Along this circuitous road, I learned how to slow down and linger over the little things we may overlook, but make our lives special. I am deeply grateful to many kind people who have helped me find this gift – including, of course, my mom – and gave me the support I needed to attain our dream.

I hope everyone has a haiku 2021, filled with bits of magic!C:\Users\Amy\Pictures\Amy Losak 2015 - I think - With Cardigan Mitch Vera House on LI.jpg


Amy Losak is an experienced public relations professional specializing in healthcare media relations. 

Thanks to her mother Sydell Rosenberg’s literary influence, Amy writes and publishes her own haiku today. Her publications include Acorn, Akitsu Quarterly, Autumn Moon Haiku Journal, brass bell: a haiku journal, Failed Haiku, Frameless Sky, Frogpond (the journal of the Haiku Society of America), Hedgerow, The Heron’s Nest, Modern Haiku, Newtown Literary, Tinywords, Prune Juice; and more. 

Amy’s and Syd’s work are also featured in several recent anthologies, such as All the Way Home: Aging in Haiku (edited by Robert Epstein; Amazon), behind the mask: haiku in the time of Covid-19 (edited by Margaret Dornaus; Amazon), and Another Trip Around the Sun: 365 Days of Haiku for Children Young and Old (edited by Jessica Malone Latham;

Syd’s senryu (short and often wry poems about human nature) are featured in The Poetry of US: More than 200 poems that celebrate the people, places, and passions of the United States (edited by J. Patrick Lewis, former Children’s Poet Laureate; Amazon)

Some Links:

H Is For Haiku lesson article: 









H Is For Haiku from Penny Candy Books is available everywhere.


Friday, March 26, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of The Superlative A. Lincoln by E. R. Meyer

Thank you for inviting me to share this story on your blog, Lynne! Here’s my story about how this book came to be.

As an Illinois native, I’ve always admired Abraham Lincoln. In 2013, I read an adult biography about Lincoln and it struck me that there were still so many interesting stories about our sixteenth president that could be shared. I explored further and visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and other historic sites in Springfield, Illinois and also interviewed the presidential historian there at the time. The more I learned, the more I wanted to share these fresh and different stories about this famous leader. Most young readers know the basic framework of Lincoln’s life, so I found a way to build on that in a fresh and interesting way.

BUT, I needed to make my book different from the oodles of books that have written about our 16th president. My book is unique in that it celebrates superlatives, which most kids find fascinating. They enjoy learning about who is the tallest, the first at something, or the best at accomplishing a particular milestone. And each story about Lincoln is told through poetry—there are nineteen poems in this 48-page picture book. For example, you’ll learn why Lincoln was the “Most Distracted Farmer” when he was a young man, that he was known as the “Best Wrestler” in the county and had the “Most Surprising Friendship” with another famous icon. 

 Poetry provides the reader with an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect. Using lyrical language, sound, rhythm, and form, a poem can engage a reader in a very special way. Additionally, most poems are bite-sized morsels and include plenty of white space on the page. That space allows readers to think and dream about the topic, providing room to form their own connections.

I hope that young readers will relate to these stories about our sixteenth president and will also consider how Lincoln’s actions and wisdom apply to our world today.

The book has been chosen as an Illinois READS 2021 selection and it also won a Silver Medal in the Florida Book Awards, Older Children’s Literature category. I hope readers enjoy these stories about Lincoln, and think about ways in which they, too, are superlative!

Eileen Meyer writes picture books and poetry. Her works include The Superlative A. Lincoln: Poems About Our 16th President (Charlesbridge); Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals, and other titles. Eileen loves visiting schools and speaking to gatherings of fellow writers, educators and librarians. Eileen is a long-time member of SCBWI and has volunteered in many roles over the years. Eileen and her husband split their time between Illinois and North Florida and have three sons. For more information and to contact Eileen, please visit


On Twitter @Writer_Meyer

On Instagram Eileen@EileenMeyerBooks

FB: eileenmeyerbook

From Lynne Marie: The best and fastest way to pick up a copy of this book, click HERE. Available in Hardback AND Kindle! #Ad

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of The Star Festival by M. R. Hadley


Written by Moni Ritchie Hadley 

Illustrated by Mizuho Fujisawa 

Albert Whitman & Company @bookthreader 


Have you ever thought about living with your parents again? 


This was a conversation topic I had with a friend some time ago before moving my mom in with me. She had been living in Montana, alone after my father’s passing, and after a few years, it became apparent that living alone was not an ideal situation anymore. Among other reasons, her meds were starting to look like opened bags of scattered skittles on her kitchen countertop, with no semblance of order. 


Right before I left for my Hawaiian Honeymoon, my siblings and I decided that Mom would move in with me into a converted downstairs living area in my house. Yes, I do have a nice husband! I took a leave of absence from my then teaching position. I learned the ropes of caring for an older adult, including monitoring and understanding meds, taking her to numerous doctor appointments, reminding her not to forget to bring certain items when we left the house, and cooking meals.  


Here’s the part that relates to my picture book.  


Are you saying to yourself, “This sounds like my toddler and me!” Well, I thought the same thing. So, I cranked out a young picture book called Baby Understands. I have to admit, I was pretty in love with that first draft. After months of trying to perfect that manuscript, I finally tackled the story’s main problem, making it less of a mom’s story and shifting the perspective to the kid’s point of view. 


At that time, I enrolled in the Children’s Book Academy’s The Craft & Business of Writing Picture Books. I had intended to work on another manuscript but was having trouble with the assignments—characters and characters driving the plot. I pulled out this manuscript toward the end of the course and brought it to a scheduled critique session with an editor. 


In the story, a young girl and her mother lose Oba, the girl’s grandmother, at a general-sort-of festival. The editor inquired about which festival, to which I had no answer. That began my dig into the thousands of festivals that take place in Japan every year. Memories as a child attending these festivals started to return to me as I researched. The Tanabata Matsuri, the Star Festival, stood out because of the colorful decorations, ornaments, and fireworks. 


As I read about the history and origins, my fascination with the festival grew. The story of two star-crossed lovers unable to meet but once a year grabbed me. The separation of the two stars served as a perfect metaphor for Oba separated from her family. Once I changed the setting, I knew I was on to a better manuscript. 


In class, my pitch for the revision caught the attention of an editor, Christina Pulles, at Albert Whitman & Company. She acquired the manuscript after a few months offering me my first picture book contract. 


When I think back to the moment when I moved my mom downstairs, I realize that this particular story would never have existed had she not come to live with me. Thanks, Mom! 



Moni Ritchie Hadley, a half-Japanese military brat, bounced back and forth from the USA to Japan. Daydreaming was a favorite pastime. She received a BA in Psychology at UCLA and later became a home/hospital teacher for the LAUSD, where she taught students with medical needs. Today she lives in Los Angeles, where she turns her sky-gazing daydreams into stories for children. Also published in Highlights Magazine, THE STAR FESTIVAL is her picture book debut. Get your copy of this book HERE.


Moni is giving away a signed copy of her debut picture book, 


Twitter and Instagram: @bookthreader

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Story Behind the Story of Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush by Melissa Stoller

Thank you, Lynne Marie, for featuring me and the “story behind the story” of my picture book, SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrated by Sandie Sonke, Clear Fork Publishing, 2018). And I’m delighted to offer a sneak peek about the soon-to-be released sequel, RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (illustrate by Sandie Sonke, CFP, 2021).

 SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH is all about exploring the magical creativity that we possess, and also about letting go of perfection. The inspiration came from my love of art and art history, and particularly my fondness for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. One of my favorite childhood books was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, about siblings who pursued a grand adventure at the Met. I visit the museum often, and always think about how the author used the museum as the backdrop for that story. One day, I stood in front of one of the incredible Impressionist paintings at the Met and wondered: What if I had a magic paintbrush and could paint perfect pictures like Claude Monet? I imagined all sorts of amazing artwork gracing my walls! And then I wondered: What if I lost that magic paintbrush? How could I continue painting? And then finally . . . what would happen if the magic paintbrush reappeared? I envisioned an art-filled adventure, just like in my favorite childhood book!

Well, the story idea blossomed from there. I wrote about a little girl named Scarlet (her name is an oil paint color I love). And I imagined Scarlet’s magical, mystical paintbrush. Publisher Callie Metler also loves art history and happily bought the manuscript. Art Director and Editor Mira Reisberg added the amazing illustrator Sandie Sonke into the project, and Sandie brought the story to life with her whimsical artwork. Whenever I read the story at school visits, children love looking at all the details, and searching for the adorable dog that Sandie included on each page.

But the story didn’t stop there. I kept thinking about these characters and the theme of finding your own magical creativity. And in fact, I wrote a sequel that will be releasing from Clear Fork in 2021. RETURN OF THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH features the same amazing team. I can’t wait to share this friendship story, which features Paintbrush returning to say she is sorry for being too bossy, and to help Scarlet with a big artistic problem. The vibrant illustrations are gorgeous, and feature stunning nature scenes. I am so excited that this collaboration has continued and I look forward to sharing the book cover and the whole book soon!

In the meantime, I hope that this “story behind the story” might inspire you to ask “what if” questions, to wonder, to observe everything in your world, to reflect on your favorite childhood books, and perhaps to find a spark of inspiration at a place you love, like I did at the Metropolitan Museum.

Cheers to magical creativity!


Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The EnchantedSnow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. (Clear Fork, 2018 and 2020). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys museums, theatre, and long beach walks. Follow her blog, “This Writing Life,” where she interviews other creators about stories, creativity, and connection, at

Purchase Scarlet's Magic Paintbrush HERE.