Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: The Girl in the Tower by Lisa Schroeder

Lisa Schroeder is one of my favorite authors. I've read several of her young adult books, many of which are written in verse form. I have known of her middle grade works, but haven't read any of them until I read THE GIRL IN THE TOWER, which released this past March.

This book is very different than the other books by Lisa Schroeder that I have read, not only because of the intended age group, but because of the genre. It's her very first fantasy novel!

You may think, as I did at first, that this story is a retelling of the story of Rapunzel. But it isn't! THE GIRL IN THE TOWER is completely original.

Violet has been trapped in the tower, along with her mother, since she was born. She is kept there by the evil Queen Bogdana, who is also a witch who has the kingdom under a spell. When Violet is given the chance to become a real princess, in exchange for her mother's freedom, she agrees to live in the castle with the evil queen. But her true desire is to see her family reunited and the spell over the kingdom broken.

I enjoyed this book, which has the feel of a classic fairy tale. Though the main character Violet might seem a little too perfect, the story is original and fresh. It's sweet without being too cutesy. Magical without being too hokey. THE GIRL IN THE TOWER is a lovely, engaging read that is sure to please fairy tale fans young and old. 

I recommend this book for anyone who likes fairy tale stories, fans of Disney princesses (especially those who save themselves), and anyone who simply wants a light, feel-good read for a lazy afternoon.

To learn more about Lisa Schroeder and her books, check out LisaSchroederBooks.com

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book-Inspired Projects: Moose-approved treehouse alternatives!


Reading WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? or some other tree house themed book may inspire your kids to build a tree house of their own. But what if building a tree house is not a possibility for you? No worries! There are plenty of alternatives that are almost as much fun!

Build a fort out of blankets and pillows.

The temporary nature of a blanket fort makes it ideal for a rainy summer day, or a day in which the temperature makes it impossible to play outside. Plus, building an indoor fort is not only fun, but it's an exercise in creativity and engineering. Just imagine the creative thinking involved in getting that blanket to stay in just the right spot!



Pitch a tent in the back yard or family room.

Blanket forts not your thing? Or maybe you're a little worried that the kids will pull that heavy lamp onto their heads? Pitch a tent instead! A small tent can be a perfect fort for indoors or out.

Grow a sunflower fort.

This takes some time and commitment, but if you have the space, the time will be well worth it! Imagine escaping into a hideout made entirely of sunflower stalks! That would be magical.

Savvy Housekeeping: Grow a Sunflower House

Construct a mini tree house for a bird or fairy.

You may not have the perfect tree house tree, but you can still build one for a bird or a tiny magical creature. Here is a good place to start for inspiration and instruction.

Make a fort out of a large cardboard box. 

Empty cardboard boxes are full of potential, and if a box is large enough for a child to crawl into, then it will make a perfect fort for indoors or out. Decorate it to look like a house or a castle--like this one that I found at Cornerstone Confessions. The only limit is your (or your child's) imagination!

Build a tree house out of Legos.

My kids and I have often stayed up late on summer nights constructing some ambitious structures out of these colorful blocks. Building a tree house out of the best toy ever invented can be a great way to spend a hot summer day!



Design a tree house in Minecraft. 

A few years ago my son got me into the video game Minecraft. Not only is it a fun video game, but it's a great way to get creative without making a mess. A quick internet search for "minecraft treehouse" will give you an idea of just how creative these houses can be!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

What I've Learned in One Year as a Published Author

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is one year old today!

There have been many times in my life when I felt like I'd never ever be a published author, EVER! The road to getting published was so long and slow and filled with frustration and disappointment. But I kept at it. Kept writing, kept growing, kept learning. It paid off. Now, suddenly I have been a published author for an entire year!

I have learned a lot over the past year. Much of it I "knew" because of all the reading and networking and all that jazz that I did in the years before my book released. But there is no better teacher than experience, and even the things that I "knew" before were really driven home once my book hit the shelves!

So here are some of the things I've learned about publishing, about myself, and about the work it takes to actually BE an author.

What it means to take an active role in marketing my books.

Everything I read about marketing before I was published said a variation of the same thing: It is your job to market your book. Your publisher is only going to do so much. So, I knew this. But I didn't really know what it would look like or how much time it was going to take. Marketing can suck up every bit of your writing time if you're not purposeful about how you use your time.

The power of word of mouth.

If people like a book, they tell people that they know, especially if they know the author! Word of mouth has led to people asking me about my book, asking where they can buy it, and inviting me to come and visit their school or store. Also, when someone asks what I do and I say, "I write picture books," they seem genuinely interested. That's why I always keep a stash of bookmarks in my purse!

I can do things that make me (very) uncomfortable.

Before I was published, the thought of "approaching a bookseller" to tell them about my book was terrifying. But not long before WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? was released, I did just that. I went into the local independent book store, introduced myself, and told them about my book. They were enthusiastic and welcoming and kind, and I don't know what I was so afraid of! I've also managed to drive, by myself, into unfamiliar neighborhoods and enter unfamiliar schools and say, "I'm here for the author visit." This is significant, because driving in unfamiliar areas can be a huge source of anxiety for me!

A not-so-favorable review doesn't really matter.

At least, not to me. Of course, I want people to like my books. But it isn't realistic to expect everyone to love them as much as I do. And it isn't realistic to expect only raving reviews, as if those were the only opinions that matter.

If only one child shows up for a reading/signing event, it is worth it.

I did a story time event at a small, independent book store a few months ago. It was a very small crowd of one family and a teacher. I sat and read to a little girl as she colored a WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? coloring page. I think I signed only one copy of the book that day--for the teacher! But if my presence at a story time event can give a child a positive book-related experience, then my job is done!

This business really is about the stories and the kids more than about making money.

I knew that I probably wasn't going to make gobs of money as a picture book author. What I didn't know was just how much that didn't matter. I'm not saying that I don't want to make money as an author, because I do. But the reason I want my books to do well is so I can keep writing them. My writing is how I let my little light shine in the world, and the list of things that are more important than that is pretty short.

Marketing isn't what I thought it was.

Designing bookmarks and postcards, putting together a book trailer, and creating graphics for social media take a lot of time. Doing those things myself not only saves me money, but also lets me use some of my other creative skills. I've also spent a lot of time contacting schools and book stores to get the word out about me and my books. But a lot of marketing has less to do with selling my book and more to do with making connections with people.

Other authors care about my success.

The support I've seen from other authors has made me realize what a great of people the kid lit community is. They tweet and retweet and read and review, and even buy other authors' books. There are a lot of reasons for that, but ultimately, every children's author's goal is to get a variety of quality books into the hands of children. And that is cool.

Public speaking is easy cheesy when the audience is full of children.

I can barely stand and speak in front of a small group of adults at church without feeling like my heart is going to pound out of my chest. But put me in front of a group of kids and ask me to talk about books and I'm quite at ease! It truly is my favorite part of being an author.

I look forward to learning a lot more in the years to come!

Don't forget to enter the GIVEAWAY for a chance to win a signed copy of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?











Monday, June 06, 2016

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? turns ONE (and a giveaway!)


How do you celebrate the one year anniversary of the publication of your very first book? By hosting a giveaway, of course! To celebrate WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?'s big day on Thursday, June 9th, I am giving away one signed copy of the book. Fill out the rafflecopter below for a chance to win! You have until the end of this week to enter. Good luck!

UPDATE: For some reason, blog comments don't always appear when using Rafflecopter. If your comment doesn't show up, your entry will still count!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Picture Book Review: SUPERHERO INSTRUCTION MANUAL

SUPERHERO INSTRUCTION MANUAL by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Mark Fearing is one of the most recent additions to my personal picture book library.

This book is a lot of fun. It reads like a "how to" book, while suggesting a story that goes beyond the words. The main character desperately wants to be a hero, and he follows the instructions of the manual, choosing a "super name," picking a side-kick, putting together a disguise, etc. All this time, his sister is in the background, secretly following in his footsteps.

It's a superhero book. It's a sibling book. It's a book about saving the world one small heroic act at a time!

The illustrations are colorful, active, and fun--just as you would imagine super illustrations to be! But they go way beyond illustrating the text of the book. This book is the perfect example of a marriage of text and illustrations, with a subtle message about being "super" by doing ordinary good things.

Read the book. And then, go forth and be super!




Tuesday, May 24, 2016

HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS is out today!

The day is finally here. HENSEL AND GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS has hit the shelves!


As you may know, HENSEL AND GRETEL is a companion book to THE THREE NINJA PIGS and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD, both by Corey Rosen Schwartz. I was honored and excited when Corey asked me to to collaborate on a third book in her already popular Ninja series. This book is full of action, humor, and poultry puns, and I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as Corey and I enjoyed writing it!

KIYA!

Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Books A Million
Indiebound



Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Seven Key Characteristics of Well-loved Picture Books


I've learned a few things in my years as a parent, librarian, and author about what kids generally want from books, particularly picture books. Though every child is different, and tastes can vary widely, there are a few characteristics of picture books that seem almost guaranteed to please the majority of young readers. Books with these qualities are the books that a child will request over and over at bed time. They always seem to be checked out at the library and get the most damage because they get the most attention.

Whether you are writing picture books or choosing books to add to your own child's reading pile, keep these characteristics in mind:

1. Wonder. If a book amazes a child or captures his imagination, he will want to read it again and again. Or maybe sit there and pore over the illustrations for hours. Some picture books that fall into this category are JOURNEY by Aaron Becker and WHAT DO YOU DO WITH AN IDEA? by Kobi Yamada.

2. Humor. Every child loves a good laugh, and a book that gets a child giggling to herself or laughing out loud is sure to make it into the "read it again" pile. One of my favorite humorous picture books is CHLOE AND THE LION by Mac Barnett.

3. Rhythm. Whether in rhyme or prose, the best picture book texts have rhythms that naturally flow like waves that rise and fall. The perfect example of a non-rhyming book with a natural, flowing rhythm is WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak.

4. Clever titles. Sometimes a title alone is enough to endear a book to a child, or at least get him interested in reading it. Consider the books PINKALICIOUS by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann and INTERRUPTING CHICKEN by David Ezra Stein.

5. High concepts. When authors take two cool concepts and mash them together, what you have is a high concept book that is sure to catch a young reader's attention. This would include titles like INTERSTELLAR CINDERELLA by Deborah Underwood or SAMURAI SANTA by Rubin Pingk.

6. Interesting illustrations. When an illustrator goes beyond illustrating the text to make a book her own, adding fun or surprising details in the pictures, kids notice. Two great examples of this are CHICKS AND SALSA by Aaron Reynolds and LENNY & LUCY by Phillip C. Stead.

7. An emotional arc. A picture book that tells a story a child can relate to on an emotional level is one that will not soon be forgotten. And it is often those books that help a child fall in love with reading. A couple examples of picture books with strong emotional arcs are TEENY TINY TOADY by Jill Esbaum and A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT by Kristy Dempsey.