Tuesday, June 30, 2020

12 Picture Books that are Poignant, but not Preachy

Picture books for children almost always impart lessons, but the best ones do so in a way that allows the lesson to unfold naturally as the story progresses. Sometimes these lessons are straightforward. Other times they are subtle. But all of them are written by thoughtful authors who trust their audience to "get it" without having it spelled out for them. These books should be celebrated. Starting with these!

Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

This book is the perfect example of a picture book that tells a story while allowing the "lesson" to work itself out naturally. But that doesn't mean this book is shallow. It's a profound yet simple story about dealing with loss.

A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker

Another story--told completely through illustrations--about dealing with loss, in this case the loss of a pet. The book is imaginative and heartfelt, and addresses the issue of losing a beloved pet with tenderness and hope.

The Boy Who Grew a Forest: The True Story of Jadav Payeng by Sophia Gholz, illustrated by Kayla Harren

This book tells an inspiring true story that will show young readers how much one person can make a difference if they are determined enough. 

Grandad's Island by Benji Davies

This is an imaginative and colorful story about a young boy's adventure with his grandfather, with a subtle message about saying good-bye. 

The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

This is the story of a little boy and his grandfather, who is slowly losing his memory. This metaphorical tale is engaging and lovely. This book would be great for fostering discussions about what happens when someone suffers from memory loss caused by a disease like Alzheimer's. The story addresses the issue gently and with a message of hope.

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

Another gorgeously illustrated, imaginative story. This one is about collecting and sharing experiences as part of the joy of friendship. It is also about that difficult but inevitable part of most friendships: moving away. But this book is hopeful too, in the way it shows how friendships can continue over distances and that new friendships are always a possibility. 

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

This story is very simple and relatable. Who hasn't been frustrated or disappointed and just needed someone to be there to wait, and to listen when you're ready to vent? This book is about the stages of grief and the value of a friend who is simply there to listen.

The Scarecrow by Beth Ferry, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

This is a gorgeous and poignant story about an unlikely and unexpected friendship. It beautifully illustrates the value of helping others and shows that differences don't have to be a hindrance to friendship.

Almost Time by Gary D. Scmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

A simply, lovely book about the value of patience in a story that shows that good things (like real maple syrup) are worth waiting for. Also, life keeps on going even when you're waiting, so don't miss out.

Why? by Adam Rex

Don't let the simple title and cover deceive you. This book is both poignant and hilarious! 

Ernestine's Milky Way by Kerry Madden-Lunsford, illustrated by Emily Sutton

A lovely, empowering story about bravery, neighborliness, and freshly churned butter!

After the Fall by Dan Santat

If you can only choose one book from this, make it this one. It's a brilliant, gorgeously illustrated book about overcoming fears. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

One more week until FEDERICO AND THE WOLF!

In one week, my next picture book will be out in the world. This release is especially exciting for me because this is my solo debut. Each of my previous books was written with Corey Rosen Schwartz, and they were all special and exciting for their own reasons. But this one is my own. And let me tell you, the experience with this book has been so much different than the ones I've written with Corey.

First off, writing this one was faster. This was in part due to the fact that it is a fractured fairy tale that follows the plot of Little Red Riding Hood fairly closely. But also, there wasn't any back-and-forth. No waiting until Corey and I both had time to write. No arguing over which rhyme was best for the second line in the fourth stanza. No debating about plot or direction or whether we had chosen the right meter. Now, don't get me wrong, the back-and-forth when writing with Corey is a good thing. When we are on a roll, we are like iron sharpening iron. We bring out the best in each other's writing. And it's thanks in part to my years writing with her that I even wrote FEDERICO in the first place. But writing FEDERICO was different. Not better or worse. Different.

Second, this book sold faster! I wrote the book in January of 2017 and it sold in November of the same year. There are a lot of things that factored into that, not the least of which is that my agent at the time sent it to exactly the right people. And the timing for a diverse, modern retelling of Little Red Riding Hood was perfect. And those books I wrote with Corey probably didn't hurt either.

For this book, once it sold I was on my own in a lot of ways. There was no one else to share the waiting with (besides my long-suffering husband and children). No one to fret with about whether the publisher would choose the perfect illustrator (they did!). No one to help in the preparations of promotional materials or brainstorm marketing ideas. I was free to do what I wanted, but it was daunting and a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, the books I published (and promoted) with Corey taught me a lot, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how much I have been able to do on my own. Not to mention how supportive the writing and reading community around me has been throughout this journey. Especially Corey.

Of course, the launch of this book will also be quite different than those I wrote with Corey, mainly because of Covid-19 and all of the shut-downs and social distancing it has brought about. There will be no in-person book signings for a while. No book store or library readings. But I'm adapting and having plenty of fun doing online promotion, and I look forward to doing in-person events in the--hopefully near--future.

In the meantime, if you'd like to join in the online fun, I hope you'll join me for the Federico Fiesta, a virtual launch party I'm having on my Facebook page. The fun happens on the book's launch day, May 19, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

Monday, April 27, 2020

National Poetry Month: Downfall

We had a beautiful April snowfall recently. The kind of snow that coats everything it touches and makes the world feel soft and snug, like a hug. But the thin layer that was left behind on the deck steps after being shoveled and tromped on was not so friendly.


The snow is fluffy, soft and nice
but not the ice.
It's slip-slick
enjoys the sick trick
of pulling at your shoes
making you lose your
call out
flail about.
On your back
seeing nothing by sky.

You get up
back on your feet
noting your body's warning:
You're gonna be sore in the morning.

But you smile at the not-so-nice ice
as it chuckles with glee,
because, wait and see.
Soon the sun will be high in the sky
and the slip-slick ice will melt
then dry.

© 2020 Rebecca J. Gomez