Monday, December 18, 2017

COVER REVEAL: The Star in the Christmas Play by Lynne Marie, illustrations by Lorna Hussey

Santa arrived early to my house (or more specifically, one of his elves, Naomi did) -- and  brought the final cover to my third and latest picture book, THE STAR IN THE CHRISTMAS PLAY available from Sparkhouse Family on 11/8/2018. I am particularly pleased and excited to announce that my illustrator for this book is the fabulous Lorna Hussey, who illustrated my previous book, HEDGEHOG'S HUNDRED DAY OF SCHOOL, Scholastic, 2011. So here it is, without further adieu, the cover debut of what I affectionately call "STAR"........
Thanks for sharing in my joy over this *super-cute* cover.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Susanna Leonard Hill’s 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest 2017 - My Entry #2

The Contest: Write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children using the words candy corn, monster, and shadow. Candy corn counts as 1 word.  Halloweensie Contest.

While you're there, check out the Picture Book Magic class. I am a proud graduate. I was already published when I took the class, yet still found it extremely helpful in taking apart my problem manuscripts and putting them back together in a way that they work better!

Trick or Treat? with Little Bo-Creep  

(101 with Candy Corn and Excluding Title)

By Lynne Marie

            “Each ‘hide and creep’ winner will get candy corn 

treats,” Little Bo-Creep announced.
            She covered her eyes, counted and searched. Not a sheep could be found!   
            “Little monsters,” shrieked Bo-Creep. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
            All Halloween, Bo-Creep searched in the shadows. When the sun rose, her sheep were still gone.
            “I’ll teach you to roam so far from your home,” said Little Bo-Creep. She painted rocks like candy corn and created a trail leading to the meadow.
            She sat by the gate and waited. The snickering winners grabbed up their treats and started to eat.
Trick! squealed Bo-Creep. 

Please go here to vote for your favorite entry, or to enter: 
One of the prizes is a critique from me! 

THANK YOU Susanna Leonard Hill for sponsoring this fun contest!

PLEASE leave a comment if you enjoyed my story. Happy Halloweensie! 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Susanna Leonard Hill’s 7th Annual Halloweensie Contest 2017 - My Entry #1

The Contest: Write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children using the words candy corn, monster, and shadow. Candy corn counts as 1 word.  Halloweensie Contest.

While you're there, check out the Picture Book Magic class. I am a proud graduate. I was already published when I took the class, yet still found it extremely helpful in taking apart my problem manuscripts and putting them back together in a way that they work better!

Matilda’s Halloween Treat Troubles  

(101 with Candy Corn and Excluding Title)

By Lynne Marie

      “I need to create a spooky treat to share at the Ghoul

Scout party,” said Matilda Monster. “But what?”

      Mummy offered popcorn. “This?”

      “Thanks. It’s a good start. I’ll find a way to make it 

spooky,” Matilda murmured. “I’ll see what treats my 

friends are making.”

      Cyclops pressed candy eyes into soft-baked cookies. 

“Here’s some eyes.”

      Skeleton poked pretzel sticks into oreos for spiders. “Here’s some sticks.”

     “Thanks!” said Matilda.

      Matilda sat in the shadows and thought. “I have popcorn, candy eyes and pretzels sticks. 

Hmmm. All I need is candy corn and chocolates.  Now, I know just what to make.” 

Please go here to vote for your favorite entry, or to enter: 
One of the prizes is a critique from me! 

THANK YOU Susanna Leonard Hill for sponsoring this fun contest!

PLEASE leave a comment if you enjoyed my story. Happy Halloweensie! 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What's in a Name (How to Name Characters) by Lynne Marie

A character's name is a very important aspect of their personality. While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a character who is "cool," would not be named Horace or Bertha. Likewise,  a character who is boring wouldn't be named Lexi or Jake. So choosing a name is a very important part of writing your story.

A popular method of finding names is by pouring over a baby name book or a baby name finder online, but there are other ways to find perfect names for your characters.

In my first book, Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (Scholastic, 2011), my main character was named after my pet hedgehog, Apollo Nike, who I called Spike as a nickname. I was aware that many editors don't want many named characters in a picture book, so with the except of a few main characters (Sheldon the Turtle, Wart the Frog, Peek-a-boo the Ostrich, Magoo the Mole), I gave the others names like Camel and Crocodile, Zebra and Rabbit, and Lion and Elephant. Surprisingly, my then-editor at Scholastic wanted me to name all the players, so Camel became Humphrey, Crocodile became Chomp, Zebra became Stripes, Rabbit became Hopper, Lion became King and Elephant became Peanut.

My next book features Spike's friends, including Wade the Flamingo, Hoot the Owl, Sticks the Beaver, and again, Hopper the Rabbit.

Obviously all these names were inspired by something connected with the character (an identifiable feature or action). Because of that, they fit well, and would be easy for a preschool/kindergarten aged child to remember and associate with the animal.

While the above represent some of my simpler animal names, I often do a lot of research before choosing. For example Hazel Mouse from my American Pie manuscript, is named for an actual species of mouse. Harry the Turkey from my Fowl Humor manuscript is named for one of the Presidents who actually pardoned turkeys on Thanksgiving. Lioness, a character in my Borrowing Bosley manuscript, is named for a real Guide Dog. Marilyn Moo-nroe, in my Moo-vie Star, is named for the actress that inspired her. I've also named characters from a pre-fix, root or suffix in their scientific name.

Some names are inspired by rhyme, like Fancy Nancy and Clark the Shark, Others, like Princess Peepers by Pam Calvert, Boris and Bella by Carolyn Crimi, and Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Hill, and my own Slow Down, Sylvia Sloth, show consonance at play.

So here's a quick list of ways to name characters:

               1. Baby Name Book or Online Baby Name Finder
               2. Derivation of Scientific Animal Name
               3. Made up name of fun sounds like Gogi

When it comes to naming a character there is no real right or wrong way, as long as the name fits. I hope that whether though rhyme, research or reading the baby name book -- you enjoy the name game!

Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten - illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog's 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play -- illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Sparkhouse Family, 2018) and Moldilocks and the 3 Scares (Sterling, Pending). Her stories, poems, and folk tales have appeared in many magazine markets, including Family Fun, Highlights, High Five, Spider, Baby Bug and more. She is an on-staff writer for Jon and Laura Bard's Children's Book Insider and a book reviewer, as well as a 2016 and 2017 Cybils Award panelist. She is a former New Yorker who now lives a simpler life on a lake in South Florida with her daughter and several resident water birds. You can learn more about her at

If you are interested in being a Guest Blogger, having your book review, or being interviewed by My Word Playground Blog, please contact me.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

[PPBF] A Review of Bonaparte Falls Apart Written by Margery Cuyler and Illustrated by Will Terry

TitleBonaparte Falls Apart 
Written By:  Margery Cuyler 
Illustrated By: Will Terry 
Published By: Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017

Genre: Fiction 
Suitable For Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: Coping, Confidence 
Bonaparte was falling to pieces, and this really shook him up,

     especially when he rode his bike, 
     or played catch,
     or visited the doctor's office. 
Brief Synopsis

From the publisher: Bonaparte is falling to pieces. When he plays catch, his throwing arm literally takes a flier.

And eating lunch is a real jaw-dropping experience. 

Luckily, Bonaparte's well-meaning friends have some boneheaded ideas to help pull him together. 

But will it be enough to boost his confidence and get him ready for the first day of school? 
Why I Like This Book: Bonaparte is a sweet, likeable character with universal appeal. With all of us having our own differences that make us unlike the rest, who doesn't know how he feels? Thankfully, with a little help from his friends, Bonaparte finds a way to run and romp just like his classmates, despite his physical challenges. As a parent of children with different abilities (my son has mild cerebral palsy and my daughter has Asperger's and other syndromes) I LOVE, LOVE this book. Also, I really ADORE that the friends play a strong role in solving Bonaparte's problem. I hope children get the message in this that they can be strong admirable characters by helping someone in need, other than themselves. What a wonderful example to put forward! And the adorable art by Will Terry is monstrously wonderful! A great book ANY time of year including back-to-school, but especially extra fun at Halloween. 

Four Stars from Me!

For MORE about Margery Cuyler and her books, click here:

Please help spread the word about Margery's delightful book by sharing this post. While you are here, don't forget to subscribe to the blog so you don't miss out on future posts! And PLEASE leave a comment for me if you enjoyed this post.

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

GUEST POST: Setting Up Your Picture Book Setting by Chana Stiefel

Setting Up Your Picture Book Setting

By Chana Stiefel

Now that my debut picture book DADDY DEPOT hit bookshelves on May 16, I decided to look back at my first draft to see how the published version compares with the original story.

First a caveat: When I wrote my first draft eight years ago, I knew next to nothing about writing picture books. Sure, I read them every night with my kids and I could recite my favorites from my childhood by heart. But I knew very little about the craft of writing picture books—creating a story arc, building characters, introducing conflict, perfecting page turns, developing language . . . and setting up the perfect setting.

Looking back, I found a big surprise: Only two things remained from my first draft—the title and the setting. And guess what? They are one and the same! DADDY DEPOT is the story of a little girl named Lizzie who gets mad at her dad (he’s distracted by football, he tells bad jokes, and he falls asleep during snuggle time), so she returns him to the daddy store. Lizzie goes on a shopping spree in a warehouse filled to the ceiling with dads up for grabs. Will she find the perfect dad?

With a dig at imperfect parents (and children), DADDY DEPOT is a story about unconditional love. It’s also a spoof of our consumer culture in which everything (even dads) can be returned. Or can they?

In 2013, at an NJSCBWI conference, I pitched DADDY DEPOT to my (future) agent John Cusick at four-minute pitch session. He laughed at the idea of a book about a daddy store and said, “Send it to me.” The book sold to Feiwel & Friends a few months later. (Cue the funky chicken touchdown dance!)

I later had a conversation with John about the setting for another story that just wasn’t working. John pointed out that so many kids’ stories are set in schools and at home--and for good reasons. These settings are the places that are most familiar to kids. But what worked for Daddy Depot was that the big-box store was not only relatable, it also transported kids to a whole new world.

Setting is much more than a backdrop. It can open doors to new experiences. For the writer, the right setting presents a world of opportunities for character development, language, culture, conflict, and resolution. In other words, the right setting can set up your story in transformative ways, both for your characters and your readers.

A few other debut picture books I’ve read this year accomplish the same goals:

BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB by Annie Silvestro is the story of a bunny that sneaks into the library through the book drop to borrow books. Her forest friends soon follow. In BOB & JOSS GET LOST by Peter McCleery, two friends are shipwrecked and get lost on a desert island—or do they? FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMER’S MARKET by Michelle Schaub is a lovely book of poems about friends at an urban greenmarket. MRS. McBEE LEAVES ROOM 3 by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan is about a beloved teacher leaving a school. The children use their classroom materials and individual talents to cope with the big change in their lives. All of these books have unique settings that kids can relate to, but with an added twist.

When writing or revising a picture book, ask yourself:
  • Is my setting relatable to kids (and parents)?
  • Is it unique?
  • How do the characters relate to their setting?
  • Does it fill the reader with a sense of wonder?
  • How can I make the setting central to the story? (Yes, the illustrator can fill in details, but it should matter if your story takes place on Mars or at the Mini Mart.)
  • What would happen if I drop my character into an entirely new setting? How does he or she act and react?

On this last question, I tried this technique for one of my (semi-autobiographical) characters in a story about a little girl who wants to change her unpronounceable name. What was a standard story about a soccer-playing kid named Chana became WAKAWAKALOCH, a story about a cave girl who wants to change her name to Gloop. The cave-culture setting opened up lots of opportunities for humor and character development, as well the chance for Wakawakaloch to find a solution to her own problem. WAKAWAKALOCH will be coming out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019! (Still dancing!)

In DADDY DEPOT lingo, playing with setting can be the difference between the Clearance aisle and a Lifetime Guarantee of picture book success! Try it and see what happens.

Author Bio

Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 20 non-fiction books for kids about stinky castles, exploding volcanoes, and other wild stuff. Her picture book, DADDY DEPOT (Feiwel & Friends), debuts on May 16, 2017. Visit Chana at and her authors’ blog, which she writes with her critique partner, Donna Cangelosi. Chana is represented by John M. Cusick at Folio Literary.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

ASK AWAY FRIDAY: With Children's Author Lynne Marie

Lately I have had current and prospective critique clients ask me similar questions about my publishing background, so I decided to whip up an "Ask Away Friday" post to address these questions. 

I am a former paralegal who drafted correspondence and pleadings (1983-2003), as well as professional book reviewer who reviewed novels. During that time, I tinkered with rom-com (romantic comedy) novels and screenplays before switching to children's writing in 1999. 

I threw myself into learning anything and everything I could about children's writing, took many college and other courses, attended many conferences (including NY and LA SCBWI Nationals, SCBWI International at Madrid in 2003, Rutgers RUCCL each year and Highlights Foundation Workshops at Chautauqua in 2001, 2002, 2003 and later in 2005). Programs like RUCCL and Chautauqua are selective, and I was able to get in time and again, so I did have confidence that I was on the right track with my career choice. 

I finally felt ready to focus on submitting four years later, around 2003. However, I got married in May 2003, got pregnant, and was prescribed bed rest. As a result, I was living with my family at my parent's house with no access to a computer. I couldn't write, but kept reading. I intended to return to writing as soon as possible, but my new daughter needed my attention more than my writing. 

BLOG: I did have a blog which actually made Writer's Digest Top 100 many years ago and which you see today here. I don't feel that my blog helped me sell a book, however, I do feel it is a necessary promotion tool, especially now that I have several books to my name.  [Art by: Lisa J. Michaels] 

WEBSITE: I feel the same about websites (personal opinion). However, I do think once you sell your first book that you should buy your domain, get your website set up, and start building traffic and subscribers. 

I finally got back on track in 2010 when Kayla entered kindergarten full-time. At that time, I started submitting and got my first offer on a manuscript called School Bus Buddies from Jenne Abramowitz of Scholastic in 2010. This offer produced my first book, Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, published in 2011 and illustrated by Anne Kennedy. I did not have an Agent at the time, but had fortunately slipped through the cracks and my manuscript had been seen. 

I had absolutely no recall of this event until I recently found the rejection letter, but in 2003 I had attended the NY SCBWI conference and had a critique with Mary Gruetzke, who liked my School Bus Buddies manuscript, but felt it wasn't for Scholastic Press, so she passed it along to Jenne Abramowitz, who rejected it. 

Ironically, it was the same story (after many years of revision) that the SAME editor from Scholastic accepted in 2010. Please know, had I remembered the rejection at all, I would have never sent again. But I didn't, and I had put enough time and energy into the manuscript to pass through this time. Moral of the Story: Do not submit before your manuscript is ready. This means several trusted people telling you SEND IT OUT! It would be like opening a bottle of fine wine before it's time. 

Unfortunately, soon after Hedgehog's publication I moved myself and my daughter to Florida to escape a bad marriage. It took me several years to get back on my feet (2015), but as soon as I did, I joined Joyce Sweeney's critique group and also formed an online critique group and started relearning and honing my skills. In 2016, I submitted Hedgehog's 100th Day of School directly to my then-editor Jenne, and got an acceptance from Michael Croland, who had replaced her. In 2017, after several editor shifts, my book was published under the same name and was illustrated by Lorna Hussey. Scholastic is currently holding a third, related Hedgehog manuscript, pending successful sales of the 100th Day sequel. 

Like many other writers,  I sent submissions to which I received no response, but for the most part, I enjoyed champagne rejections for many of my manuscripts, with responses like "this is wonderful but just signed a similar book about a dog in Versailles," "unfortunately, I just committed to  a Panda book," "I really like this but just took on another feisty princess book," etc. And so I pressed on and persisted. 

My third book (pending 2018) The Star in the Christmas Play,  was a finalist in the a contest put on by Sparkhouse Family. It did not win the contest, but they brought it to acquisitions and ultimately bought it in April, 2017. I am thrilled to announce it will be illustrated by the talented Lorna Hussey, who created the art for my Hedgehog's 100th Day book! [Art by Lorna Hussey]

My fourth book (pending TBA) Moldilocks and the 3 Scares was picked up by Meredith Mundy of Sterling Children's Publishing.  She had originally seen my manuscript The Dino Store at a SCBWI Conference in Miami in 2016 and loved it, but said, "I already have too many dinosaur books and it would compete for sales with what I already have. What else do you have?" I pitched six books to her on the spot, and she told me to send the first three. Moldilocks and the 3 Scares was one of the first three. Although it was submitted in February 2016, I received the offer in July, 2017, and the contract is currently pending. 

So to recap, I basically was writing / studying / reading for 11 years before I got published (but consider there were many years in there where I was not focused). I did submit to the slush pile and made it through, and I did persist. I am now at the 18 year mark, with four books and this being my best year. I had one book published in January and have a goal of five contracts this year. Even if I don't reach it, I'll have gone further than if I didn't have such a wonderful goal. Two down, three to go. I have a few rewrite requests out and my fingers are crossed. 

This is a good time for me to point out that anyone in this business really needs to have patience in their arsenal of skills and really needs to LOVE what they are doing.  [Art by Lorna Hussey]

Of all the advice I could give, I would say that everyone's path is different, and that perhaps dedication to learning craft and devoted reading, as well as persistence are the best tools to carve a successful children's writing career. 

I think critique groups are absolutely essential and are part of my success. I run several critique groups, including a few for KidLit College ( and SCBWI and am very active in them as well. I have no idea how people get by without a critique group with honest feedback. 

I am currently talking with someone who is on my dream agent list and my fingers are crossed that it works out. However, I have sold four books on my own, so I am not afraid of pressing on without an Agent. It would be nice, though, as there are some houses I can't be seen by that I think would be good fits for manuscripts I have in my stash.  However, I do have a lot of friends that either have an Agent and have not sold a manuscript in quite some time, or, have an Agent and are not happy with them. So to be honest, I do not get caught up in worrying about whether I have an Agent or not and do the best that I can with what I have at hand. 

As I've previously mentioned, in part the fact I am active in critique groups, another part would be the amount of time and energy I invested into my craft, and lastly that each of the books that sold I focused on enough to read over 50 comp titles for, in an effort to make sure there isn't anything else like it, and that it is geared to the publisher to which I submitted. 

I will dive into this in more depth in an upcoming blog post, however I will say that ideas are like children. They come to you from different places, and in different ways, and that no two are exactly alike. So, sometimes I start with a character, sometimes with the plot. Sometimes the idea comes as a seed and I write from there. Sometimes, I don't write a word until the idea is fully formed. 

I actually have more ideas than there is time in the day, however, I try to focus as much as possible. 

I do write all over the picture book and board book spectrum -- which includes meta-fiction, subversive, concept, bedtime, high-concept, friendship, school stories, historical, sweet, rhymed, fairy tales, mash-ups, pun-filled and more! My latest manuscripts are Witch's Christmas Switchmas (an obvious mashup); Counting Sheep with Bo Peep  which is a fairy tale mash-up and counting book,; The Trouble with Lemmings which is about a lemming who struggles to show his individuality, only to find that being a part of a group has its perks; and Tombmates, which is about two brothers who must share a tomb (room) in the afterlife; to name a few. I encourage writers to keep writing and revising and to explore many story options until they find that one that soars above the rest. 

If anyone has any questions for me that I have not answered, please feel free to post them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

PPBF: The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carman Agra Deedy, Art by Eugene Yelchin

TITLE: The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet!

AUTHOR: Carmen Agra Deedy

ILLUSTRATOR: Eugene Yelchin

PUBLISHER: Scholastic, 2017

IMPRINT: Scholastic Press

SUBJECTS:  Villages -- Fiction. Noise -- Fiction. Singing -- Fiction. Roosters -- Fiction.

THEME: Persistence. 

REVIEWER: Lynne Marie

SUMMARY (Provided by the Publisher): The mayor of the noisy village of La Paz institutes new laws forbidding all singing, but a brave little rooster decides he must sing, despite the progressively severe punishments he receives for continuing to crow. The silenced populace, invigorated by the rooster's bravery, outst the tyrannical mayor and returns their city to its free and clamorous state. 

WHAT I LOVED ABOUT THIS BOOK: From the cover onward, I loved Eugene Yelcin's beautifully-drawn, colorful, folksy but modern art and the way it added cultural and other details to the story. I love that La Paz means "the Peace" in Spanish, and every cultural detail in the text. I loved word choice, setting, characters, spacing, increased tension and every plot element used. It's a great story, with essential moving parts which propel the story forward.

PLEASE, someone read this book and hopefully nominate it for a Cybils Award!

A hearty 5 out of 5 Peas!

LINK REPOST: Picking Pumpkins by Kayla Michelle and Lynne Marie

The Season of Pumpkins is upon us...

Thursday, September 28, 2017

GUEST POST: Folktale-ISH by Lauri Fortino


by Lauri Fortino

Is your story a folktale? When my picture book The Peddler’s Bed was published, many readers said it had the feel of a folktale. Some even thought it was a retelling of a folktale. It isn’t. And actually, I never set out to write a folktale. I just wrote a story.
But that got me thinking, what is a folktale? And what elements go into a story to give it that folktale-ish feel? Let’s explore.

Let’s start with the definition of folktale. Merriam-Webster defines folktale as “a
characteristically anonymous, timeless, and placeless tale circulated orally among a people” or “a story made up and handed down by the common people.” The American Heritage Dictionary says a folktale is “a story or legend forming part of an oral tradition.”

This definition from the American Folklore website ( is a little clearer: “Folktales are generally passed down from one generation to another and often take on the characteristics of the time and place in which they are told. Folktales speak to universal and timeless themes, and help folks make sense of their existence or cope with the world in which they live.”

Research has taught me that fairy tales are a subcategory of folktales, as are fables. Fairy tales include magical elements, imaginary beings, and make-believe worlds. (e.g. Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel) 

Fables are usually short stories with animals as characters, and a clear moral at the end. (e.g. The Tortoise and the Hare, The Fox and the Crow)

Folktales do not have to have magic or clear morals. But all true folktales should be the product of a traditional, often oral, narrative, anonymously authored and passed down, rather than the creative work of a particular author.

Some examples of classic folktales include, Lon Po Po, Stone Soup, The Twelve Months, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Rapunzel, and The Ugly Duckling. There are many, many others from around the world, and from every culture. Check your local library for more titles.

Now that we know what true folktales are, what elements can we borrow from them to help create a folktale-ish feel in our own stories?

*  Exotic setting, characters, and culture
* Time and place that evoke a bygone era
* Word Choice/Language Use
* Lesson/Moral (A word of caution: Most publishers today aren’t interested in stories that teach lessons or clearly state morals. If your goal is to be traditionally published, I suggest you learn to weave your message in-in a subtle way.)
* Art Style
* Magical Twist/Imaginary Creatures

Let’s take a look at a few new titles and how they’ve used the elements above to create that folktale-ish feel. You’ll notice that the elements often overlap or are closely related. Also, you should be aware that sometimes the elements appear in the text, sometimes in the illustrations, and sometimes in both.

1. Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman and Divya Srinivasan (2017): 

· Exotic setting and characters. Most of the story takes place in the palace of a Hindu king and queen. The main character is a princess.

· Bygone era. This is actually stated in the first sentence. Cinnamon was a princess, a long time ago, in a small hot country, where everything was very old.

· Word choice, language use. Phrases such as, he moved like a god through the world, which is how tigers move, and words like Rajah and Rani are used deliberately to make clear that a specific culture is portrayed in the story.

· A Lesson. Honestly, I found the subtle lesson of this story difficult to interpret. I actually took away several messages: Expressing feelings when appropriate, speaking when necessary, living free of material things, and attaining enlightenment. 

2. Ossiri and the Bala Mengro by Richard O’Neill, Katharine Quarmby, and Hanna Tolson (2016):

· Exotic setting and characters. This story is about a family of Romani, also known as traveling people or gypsies, in Europe.

· Word choice, language use. Romani culture is expressed through words and phrases like Tattin Django, Bala Mengro, and Daddo.

· A Lesson. Surprisingly, this book has a not-so-subtle message. It’s actually stated near the end of the story. The stranger had asked Ossiri many questions, but had forgotten to ask why the Bala Mengro liked her music. Perhaps it was because she played from the heart, not for gain. Again, most publishers today don’t want stories that blatantly teach lessons or state morals. But there are always exceptions, and this book is one of them. 

· Imaginary Creature. The Bala Mengro is identified as an ogre and described as “a huge hairy monster, as tall as a barn.”

3. The Lonely Giant by Sophie Ambrose (2016):

· A Lesson. There is a subtle message here about caring for the natural world.

· Imaginary Creature. Obviously, this story is about a giant.

4. Grandmother Thorn by Katey Howes and Rebecca Hahn (2017):

· Exotic setting and characters. This story takes place in a little village in Japan. The characters are dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. (see below)

· Bygone era. How the characters are depicted, in traditional dress, evokes a bygone era, especially the traveling merchant (his clothing and his cart). So here, it is more the art than the text that creates a long-ago feel.

· Word choice, language use. Japanese culture is expressed through words like Ojiisan and dorayaki.

· A Lesson. In this story, there is a subtle message about accepting that some things are beyond our control, and about embracing the possibilities that may come from change.

· Art Style. In her sewn and painted hand-crafted artwork, the illustrator used many patterns that clearly reflect traditional Japanese style.

5. The Peddler’s Bed by Lauri Fortino and Bong Redila (2015):

· Bygone era. My book features a traveling peddler dressed in a dapper suit with gloves and cane, a horse-drawn cart, and an outdoor water pump. All of these things bring to mind a bygone era. Also, the polite manner in which the characters speak has an old-fashioned ring to it. (see below)

· Word choice, language use. The characters speak in a very polite, rather formal way to one another, using words and phrases that aren’t used as much today, which, again, conveys a past era: “It’s a fine day.”, “Truly.”, “I’d be delighted.”, “Do come in and have a bite to eat.”

· A Lesson. My book subtly expresses the importance of kindness and generosity towards others, no matter our circumstances.

I encourage you to read these titles as well as classic folktales to get a better feel for how to incorporate folktale elements into your stories.


A few other things I’ve noticed about traditional folktales-not all, but many, include:

· Lengthy text (excluding fables, which are quite short). Long texts are not recommended for today’s picture books. Keep your story under 1000 words. Five hundred words is average and many picture books have even fewer. Just because your story may be folktale-ish doesn’t mean it should be overly long. Learn how to write a picture book for today’s market and apply that same knowledge to writing a story that feels like a folktale. Remember, folktales were originally shared orally. The storyteller could make the story any length they wished. Today, shorter stories prevail in picture books.

· A main character who must use cleverness to defeat or outsmart evil

· A main character who must discover the answer to a riddle or secret

· Elements like hunger, weariness, or cold weather

· Rich kingdoms and poor villages

· A focus on dysfunctional families (think Cinderella)

· A focus on beauty, usually of the main character


NOTE from Lynne of My Word Playground - 

As a big fan of folktales myself, and my Moldilocks and the 3 Scares coming from Sterling Children's Books in the future, I want to thank Lauri for this fabulous post!

Please leave a comment to thank Lauri for sharing these wonderful points. If we reach 50 comments, one lucky winner will be able to choose a picture book from my 2016 Cybils stash. I will e-mail the winner with the list and mail out as soon as the book is chosen. And please hurry and comment, because I will be donating the remainder of the books to a good cause soon. 

Please subscribe to/follow this blog and check back for reviews of the 2017 Cybils nominations! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

EXCITING NEWS from 2017 Cybils Award

Click here for Monday's big announcement!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

PPBF: The Road that Trucks Built by Susanna Leonard Hill, Illustrated by Erica Sirotich

Title: The Road that Trucks Built
Written By:  Susanna Leonard Hill
Illustrated By: Erica Sirotich
Published By: Simon & Schuster, 2017

Imprint: Little Simon

Genre: Fiction  
Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Construction Trucks 

This is the traffic that's moving too slow.
Cars and buses have nowhere to go. 
What is the answer? 
I'm guessing you know. 

Brief Synopsis: When a traffic jam occurs due to too much traffic, a new road must be built. In come the trucks, from bulldozers, to scrapers, to graders, and more! This sturdy book has a strong, durable cover and thick pages, and falls just in between a board book and a picture book! 

Why I Like This Book: This book nods to this is the house that Jack build and is a treat for anyone who loves trucks. The art is accurate, yet fun and engaging, with lots of little details for little ones to take in. 

For MORE about Susanna Leonard Hill and her books, click here:
For MORE about Erica Sirotich, click here:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

PB REVIEW: The Great Pasta Escape by Miranda Paul (Illustrated by Javier Joaquin)

Title: The Great Pasta Escape
Written By:  Miranda Paul
Illustrated By: Javier Joaquin
Published By: Bonnier, 2017

Imprint: Little Bee Books

Genre: Fiction  
Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Working together 

 Since the beginning of their lives 
(which was earlier that morning),
the pasta at the factory followed the rules.

They stuck to their own kind. 

They stayed still in their packaging.

And they never spoke to humans. 

Brief SynopsisFrom the publisher:  That is, until they discovered what it really means to be be eaten by humans! Fettuccine is scared, Rame in outraged, and Macaroni is just trying to keep the peace among all the pasta. Will they be able to all work together to use their noodles and cook up a great escape? 

Why I Like This Book: Punny pasta might just be the most delicious of all. A fun and entertaining way to learn pasta shapes and plan a great escape. 

For MORE about Miranda Paul and her books, click here:

For MORE about Javier Joaquin, click here: