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.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Our Latest Family Adventure

Summertime brings road trips. This year we headed south to Branson, Missouri for a few days of fun. I had never been to Branson before, but many people over the years had said how fun and family friendly it is. So it seemed like the perfect spot for us since we wanted to take a quick trip to someplace new that didn't take us more than a few hours from home.

Branson is situated in the heart of the Ozarks. The area is green and gorgeous...and humid! The city is small, but swarming with tourists. The best way for me to describe the most tourist-trappy part of the city is as a big amusement park in which almost everything costs at least $25.00 per person.

That's not to say that you can't have fun there on a budget. There are hotels for every price range, a variety of restaurants, plenty of nature to enjoy, and a few attractions that even my miserly husband was willing to spring for.

It was a bit of a whirlwind of a trip, but we had a fun time.

A sampling of what we saw and did in Branson (minus some excellent food).
We went on a super high ferris wheel, rode the ducks, swam in Table Rock Lake
and enjoyed some gorgeous nature. If you go, don't miss the fountain light
show at Branson Landing (it's free!).
We veered slightly off-course on the way home to visit the capitol in Topeka.
If you ever have the chance to visit, don't miss the dome tour (296 steps to the top!),
the cage elevator (93 years old and still functioning) and the library (full of mostly
historical books and documents, but also some Kansas Notable Books).

Have you gone on any adventures recently?