Monday, January 28, 2019

CRAFT TIP: Just Keep Reading, Just Keep Reading by Lynne Marie

Image result for dory just keep swimming meme
INSTRUCTIONS: Replace "Swimming" with "Reading."

In most of my picture books critiques I tell writers that they should read 100 picture books on their topic and theme. I feel like if I could see them reading my notes, their eyes would be glazing over or rolling back in their heads. When I get the revisions back I can tell the few who actually made an attempt. But I truly from the bottom of my heart want them to listen and to to the work this is why. 

First -- I am not lying or exaggerating when I share the fact that with each of my published picture books I read as close to 100 comp books for each one. I have done the work and know the benefits. Reading 100 books on your topic and themes is one of what I believe to be my secrets to success.

This gives an idea of how much I read for my currently contracted books: 

For Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (2011):
Over 100 Books, combined -
     On Hedgehogs  
     On First Days of School
     On School
     On Kindergarten
     On School Buses
     On Fear 
     On Friendship

For Hedgehog's 100th Day of School (2017)
Close to 100 Books, combined -
     On Hedgehogs
     On Art Projects
     On School 
     On Working Together
     On Friendship
     On 100th Day

For The Star in the Christmas Play (2018) 
Over 100 Books, combined 
    On Christmas
    On Nativity
    On Plays
    On Self-Esteem
    On not fitting in

For Let's Eat: Mealtimes Around the World (2019)
Close to 100 Books, combined
    On Children of Other Cultures
    On Food of Other Cultures
    On Other Countries 
    On Holidays of other Cultures

For Moldilocks and the Three Scares (2019)
     Over 100 Books, combined
     On Goldilocks tales, retellings and fractures
     Fairy Tales
     Fractures Fairy Tales
     Fairy Tale Theory

For titles, I search through, my library catalog, Amazon, Goodreads, and reading lists on google, with keywords like "Hedgehog," "fear," "first day of school," "School bus," "friendship," etc.

Your goal is to present an idea to publishers that:

1.    Has not been done before (you can also check this on Amazon before you write it).
2.    Is a fresh or unique take on an idea that has been done before.
3.    Is verifiably a kid-friendly topic.
4.    Is marketable.
5.    Has child appeal.

These are things you will be L@@King for as you read.

When reading the books, take note of the title, the author and illustrator, publisher, publication date, jacket copy or summary. I also do first and last lines, but that is optional. I save my notes in Google Docs in my folder with all my drafts and research and other notes. Here's how doing this exercise helps. You will start to see a pattern of: 

What's been done before. What hasn't been done before. Which publisher's have done it. Which publishers have done it. Which publishers do similar books. Which publishers don't do similar books. Which publishers have classic best sellers on their backlist that are similar to your idea and don't need something like it. 

You will see:
If you book is too similar. If your book is unique. If your book is not as good. If you book is better. If your book doesn't stand out. If your book stands out. 

is unique or has a fresh slant and is better than or will stand out against the rest, this is a very important part of the process. 

Do you see what I am getting at? There is no part of your time in this exercise that is wasted. 

Please note that all this work was done prior to submitting and often proves to be good thing, as you may be asked to provide comp books within the last three years when the book went to committee. 

So if you were hesitant to Just Keep Reading, I hope I have made you a Reader :) 

Good luck and Keep Reading! 


PLEASE follow this blog so you don't miss any tidbit of information and please feel free to leave any comment or question you may have. I will do my best to answer all! 

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 (Beaming Books, 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares -- illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, pending) and Let's Eat! Mealtimes Around the World -- illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019). You can learn more about her at 

To order the Star in the Christmas Play, click the title. Keep an eye out for MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES, coming in August, from Sterling Children's Books! 


  1. Great advice! Where do you do your searches? Do you just type key words?

  2. Good question -- I search the library database, Amazon, Good Reads and also Google for themed book lists! Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, Ashley C!

  3. I have heard that pb writers need to read at least one hundred picture books before they start writing their first pb manuscript. However, I didn't know that it should be for each topic and theme you choose to write in. Great advice!