Wednesday, September 21, 2016


ONE DAY IN THE EUCALYPTUS, EUCALYPTUS TREE, written by Daniel Bernstrom and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, is the most brilliant, beautifully written (and illustrated!) book I have read in a long time. Once I began reading, I fell instantly in love with the fun, colorful, lyrical language. It feels like a poem or a song that happily bounces off the tongue!

Not only does this book sound and feel wonderful to read, but it is clever too. An original folk tale with a classic feel, it tells the story of a little boy, with a whirly twirly toy, who outwits a snake who has gobbled him up!

Wenzel's charming, detailed illustrations are the perfect complement to Bernstrom's delightful text. A perfectly beautiful book.

Friday, September 09, 2016


Does your child like ninjas? Does your child like active, snappy rhyme and bold, colorful illustrations? Then you and your child will have lots of fun with NINJA, NINJA, NEVER STOP!, written by Todd Tuell and illustrated by Tad Carpenter.

I first heard of this book at the public library when I went to read HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS for a Ninja Story Time. The children's librarian started the fun with this short and snappy book, and I loved it so much that I had to check it out and bring it home so I could enjoy it again on my own.

The little ninja in this book enjoys sneaking around the house, avoiding detection and popping out when least expected. But when his little brother out-ninjas him...well, you'll just have to read it for yourself to see how it all works out.

A great book for active little ninjas!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


It's fitting that my 41st birthday falls on a Tuesday.

I was thinking about my birthday earlier today, wondering what is so fun about 41. It doesn't have the excitement of 40. This decade is still young, but not really new any more. It's like a Tuesday. There isn't much to be excited about on a Tuesday. It doesn't have the newness of Monday or the excitement of Friday. It's just another day of the week.

And 41 is just another step closer to 50.

But it is a step that I happily take, because every birthday is a reason to celebrate. I may not get any black "over the hill" balloons, but I will get cake!

Also, it just so happens that today is the release day for Sharon Creech's new book, MOO. So there's that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tips for Writing Rhyme that Shines

One of the biggest challenges of writing in rhyme is finding rhymes that are not predictable and overused. But that is also what makes the best rhyming stories and poems!

Some examples of predictable rhymes:

Sun, fun, run
Sight, night, fright
Can, man, plan
Up, cup, pup
Hear, fear, near
See, me, tree, 
No, go, blow, so
Blue, true, new, do, you
Day, play
Out, about
High, sky

Avoiding the Predictable Rhyme Trap is essential for writers who want their rhyme to stand out. Anyone can think to rhyme sun with fun, or high with sky. No reader, upon seeing the word high paired with sky, would exclaim, "What originality!"

Your goal should be to impress your readers by choosing rhymes that will surprise them. Give them something unexpected!

One way to do that is by changing up the way you describe ordinary things. If you are writing about the sun, why not use a metaphor or other descriptor in place of "sun" in your writing? Or consider rearranging the words so that "sun" doesn't fall at the end of a line. 

Another option is to use the common word, like sun, but find a less predictable word with which to make your rhyme. Like in the example below:

I sizzled in the summer sun
'till hot and crispy--overdone!
My balding unprotected head
was now a perfect pepper-red.

A few other tips for writing rhyme that shines:

- Make up words! An example of a rhyming book with fun made up words that really work is Aaron Zenz's HICCUPOTAMUS. And Dr. Suess, of course, was a genius at making up words.

- Use multi-syllabic words. These rhymes are often more challenging to write, but they are more fun to read. Corey and I used a lot of multi-syllabic rhyming words in WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? 

- Don't force it. Even the most interesting, unique, perfectly rhyming words will harm rather than help your story if they don't truly fit the context. 

Of course, it isn't possible to avoid using predictable rhymes entirely. There are many times when the predictable rhyme is simply the best choice. This is why writing great rhyme is about more than the rhymes. Using clever, creative wording and literary devices such as alliteration and onomatopoeia throughout a rhyming piece will help it to stand out even on those occasions when the rhymes themselves may be ordinary. 

But ordinary, predictable rhymes should not be the norm. Strive for the unexpected!

Friday, August 19, 2016

10 Reasons Adults Should Read Picture Books

Sometimes grown-ups get weird ideas in their heads. They may think it's silly to jump on the swings at the playground, or that they're too mature to see the latest Disney animated feature without a small child in tow. They may even come to believe that they are too old to be reading picture books!

There are plenty of reasons for adults to enjoy things that are geared toward kids, whether those things are Legos, finger paints, sidewalk chalk, or even picture books. And these reasons don't necessarily have anything to do with spending quality time with kids. 

The truth is, you could never be too old to benefit from reading picture books. And here are some reasons why:

1. They are short, so you can read a lot of them in a short amount of time. Imagine bragging to your friends that you read 365 books this year!

2. A picture book could teach you something new. They are often full of little facts that surprise even the most educated and enlightened adults.

3. They are often funny. You never outgrow the benefits of a good clean laugh!

4. They could help you remember things that you learned in school, like how to use apostrophes and how to deal with a meanie at recess.

5. Picture books may remind you of what it's like to be a kid.

6. They may inspire you to do something cool, like build a tree house, have a tea party, or adopt a pet.

7. Some picture books have yummy recipes on the end pages!

8. They might endear you to a child in your life. A niece or nephew, a student, your own son or daughter?

9. They will remind you what it means to use your imagination and be creative.

10. Because the children who see you reading them may want to read them too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What Does "High Concept" Mean, Anyway?

When I first set out to write and publish children's books, I saw over and over again that publishers and agents were looking for "high concept picture books."

Great, I thought, but what does high concept mean, anyway?

I've read a lot of articles over the years in an attempt to understand exactly what it means, but my favorite is this article that explains high concept in part as anything that can be summed up in one line, or even better, in the title. That article uses the movie Snakes on a Plane as an example. Perfect. Does that movie really need more of an explanation?

That explanation, while helpful, doesn't say it all about what high concept actually means. But after years of reading and writing and research, I think I've finally nailed down the definition for myself, and hopefully this will help you too!

High concept is this: When the EVERYDAY meets the EXTREME.

Here are a few picture books that support my definition.

MARS NEEDS MOMS by Berkley Breathed

Boy who is tired of his mom making him eat veggies and take out the trash (everyday) 

mom-napping aliens from Mars (extreme).

THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz

The three little pigs (everyday) 

pig with black belt in karate defeats the wolf (extreme).

CREEPY CARROTS by Aaron Reynolds

A bunny with a taste for carrots (everyday) 

carrots conspiring against furry carrot-muncher (extreme).

I NEED MY MONSTER by Amanda Noll

Boy can't sleep at night (everyday) 

missing underbed monster (extreme).

These books all have titles that establish their stories' premises with attention-grabbing snazziness. They can all be summed up with one line. But most importantly, their stories blend ordinary, everyday stuff with the extraordinary or outrageous.

If your goal is to write high concept picture books, that's what your stories have to do.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


MR. AND MRS. BUNNY--DETECTIVES EXTRAORDINAIRE! by Polly Horvath is a charming, clever, hilarious book. When Madeline's parents are kidnapped by conniving foxes, she accepts the help of Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, two recently self-appointed detectives, to help her solve the case and rescue her parents. And, of course, while they're at it, they will foil the foxes' plot to can rabbit products and by-products! 

This book is full of action and clever wit. It's a sweet and funny story about family, friendship, and learning to trust someone when life gets a little overwhelming.

A delightful middle-grade read. I look forward to reading the next book of Madeline and the Bunnys' adventures.