Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Review: IF YOU WERE THE MOON by Laura Purdie Salas

IF YOU WERE THE MOON by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Jaime Kim

In this informational picture book, a sleepy little girl says to the moon, "I wish I could do exactly nothing, just like you." But the moon answers back, explaining to the little girl--and the reader--that what looks like nothing is actually quite something! With simple phrases and imagery that young ones will be sure to understand, IF YOU WERE THE MOON explains the mystery of the moon and the role it plays in its place in the sky. Factual blurbs throughout the book explain the science behind each wonder described on the page, and a short glossary at the back defines several possibly unfamiliar terms.

The accompanying illustrations make the meaning on each spread clear. They are dark like the night sky, with a quiet, restful feel that makes this book a good choice for bedtime. I especially like the spread about nocturnal animals because of the warm colors and stark contrasts, which make for a stunning visual.

A perfect introduction to the moon for the youngest readers.

I received a "fold & gather" of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The book will be published in March, 2017. You can find more information about IF YOU WERE THE MOON here.

Friday, January 06, 2017

You've Written a Children's Book? Read This! (part 2)

Don't read any further until you've read Part One of this two part feature.

Have you read it?


And have you followed the directions (or are you at least planning to)?

Okay, then read on!

You've Written a Children's Book? Read This! (part two)

You may not want to hear this, but you need to. After you get your manuscript polished to its most brilliant shine, your polishing work is far from over. But this time you'll be polishing a cover or query letter instead.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

Once you've polished that manuscript, you'll want to send it to agents or editors. Which will it be? Get an agent first, or send directly to publishers (or both?). There is no wrong decision; this is completely up to you. However, there a couple things you will want to keep in mind:

1. Many publishers/editors do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries from unpublished authors. So having an agent will probably mean your work will be seen by some who would not have seen it otherwise.

2. If you have an agent, your days of stressing over query and/or cover letters are done! You can focus more on writing, and isn't that what we all want?

3. If you are a hands-on kind of person, it may be a challenge for you to "let go" and let your agent do his or her job. Then again, maybe you'll find an agent that will give you plenty to do!

Once you've decided which approach to take, you need to know to whom you want to send your manuscript. And that means you will need to do research!

Don't make the mistake of sending your manuscript off to every agent or editor you've ever heard of. Agents and editors are people, and people have different tastes. Not only that, but they have RULES about how to submit.

So, here's what you do:

1. Compile a list of agents/editors who represent/publish your kind of book.

2. Look at specific titles they have worked on. Is your book similar (but not too similar) to other books on that list? I don't necessarily mean a similar story, but similar in tone or style or format.

3. Search #mswl on twitter and visit to see what people are looking for.

4. Use social media. Follow agents and editors to get a feel for their tastes. Read blogs, interviews, and articles in which they are featured. Participate in pitch parties (such as #pitmad) on Twitter.

5. Go to conferences. Can't afford it? Check out WriteOnCon, a conference you can attend from home! This conference, combined with a twitter pitch party, led me to my agent.

Once you've narrowed your list of potential agents/publishers, it's time to polish that query letter. This can be a daunting task, but there is help. Check out this article from Writer's Digest or this blog post from which deals specifically with queries for picture books.

Have a few of your fellow author friends read your query for you if you're unsure. But it's nearly impossible to feel 100% confident when clicking that send button (or sealing that envelope). Just follow a basic query letter format and don't stress too much over it.

Now that you've polished your query and are ready to send your manuscript out into the world, be sure to follow submission guidelines, which are usually easy to find on agencies' and publishers' websites. You wouldn't want your query to go unread after all that work.

Phew! Time to breathe a little. And wait. And while you're waiting, work on that next manuscript!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

My Favorite Books of 2016

I read 134 books in 2016, assuming my Goodreads count is accurate. Admittedly, at least half of those were picture books, but that's still a lot of reading. I made it a point to read as many new books (that is, books published in 2016) as I could. And there were a lot of great ones! But there were a few that stood out more than others.

So here are my favorite books from 2016.

Picture Books

THE FORGETFUL KNIGHT by Michelle Robinson is maybe my favorite picture book ever. It is so funny and clever, and it has impeccable rhyme. Those qualities combine to make the perfect picture book. This book is so much fun that I have read it aloud to myself just for laughs, and insisted that my whole family allow me to read it to them as well. If you haven't read it, you are missing out! I recommend this for anyone who enjoys rhyming picture books.

A HUNGRY LION OR A DWINDLING ASSORTMENT OF ANIMALS by Lucy Ruth Cummins made me laugh out loud. I love it because it is clever and funny and full of twists. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys clever picture books with a bit of dark humor.

Middle Grade

Sharon Creech is one of my favorite authors, so I was not surprised at all when I read MOO and fell completely in love. It is such a touching story, written in verse, about the way a young girl's life gets rearranged when they move to a new town. I loved the way the character adapted to all the changes in such a natural way, and learned a lot about herself and her family in the process. Beautiful book! Recommended for those who enjoy verse novels, feel-good contemporary fiction, and quick reads.

THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill is as lovely inside as it is on the cover. A story about a girl who is rescued as a baby by a witch, and accidentally enmagicked, this book tells a tale of family, healing, and the power of love. And, of course, magic! It is lyrical and lovely and richly layered. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fantasy fiction full of vivid details and unique characters.

Young Adult

As I looked through my list of books read in 2016, I realized that I hadn't read a lot of young adult books. That is not surprising since I purposely focused on catching up on some of my middle grade reading over the past year. But it turns out, of the young adult books I did read, only one of them was published in 2016! Even so, I think that this book would still have had a good chance of making it onto this very short list of favorites.

CALAMITY, book three in THE RECKONERS series by Brandon Sanderson, was a lot of fun to read. An exciting and satisfying end to a fascinating series. Recommended for fans of action-packed sci-fi/fantasy adventures or super hero stories, and those who like books with a lot of guns and a bit of romance.