Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends! And Happy National #GiveKidsASmileDay! And today’s featured book is definitely going to give kids a smile because it all about the friendship between PB and J…Peanut Butter and Jelly! The author is one of my oldest kidlit friends, I met her in Switzerland when I went on my trip around the world in 2019, and she’s the fearless leader of the #DreamTeam book promotion group, Katelyn Aronson.
WHEN PB MET J
Written by Katelyn Aronson
Illustrated by Sarah Rebar
Published by Viking Books for Young Readers
Themes: Friendship, Humor, Food
Synopsis: From Amazon: The best friendship since sliced bread!
Once upon a kitchen, the Fridgers chilled on one side. The Cupboard Crew loafed about on the other.
The kitchen may look like a peaceful place, but there was never more division than between the Fridgers and the Cupboard Crew. The Fridgers could be a little too cool. The Cupboard Crew—well, they often got stale. It was clear that the two should never mix. But that was until Peanut Butter (PB, for short) met Jelly. When Jelly finds herself in a sticky situation, it’s Peanut Butter to the rescue. And the result is the best friendship since sliced bread.
When PB Met J is the deliciously funny origin story of every child’s favorite lunch. Readers will cheer that these sweet and salty characters should always stick together.
Why I Love This Book: 1. I love funny punny books…and this is one of the best! 2. I love books with important messages! 3. The illustrations are so much fun – kids are going to love this!
And guess what, friends? Katelyn stopped by to chat a bit about her inspiration for this book. And even though it was JUST her book birthday less than two weeks ago, she’s giving the present!!! Please make sure you leave a comment on the post and please follow her on social media for a chance to win a copy of this incredibly funny book!
As a little kid, I loved collecting play food and serving it up at make-believe restaurants with my sister.
I also loved watching an animated short on Sesame Street called Teeny Little Super Guy. It was all kinds of kitchen utensils and glassware having adventures in a kitchen.
My imagination fused these two childhood loves together—play food + kitchen utensils coming to life when humans aren’t watching. Then I mixed in a little Romeo & Juliet/ West Side Story tale of feuding families and out came When PB Met J. It’s an origin story about how “the best friendship since sliced bread” came to be.
Obviously, the fact that Sesame Street artist Sarah Rebar agreed to do the illustrations brought this project full circle and made my childhood dreams come true!
Oh, how wonderful that Sesame Street artist Sarah Rebar was snagged to do the illustrations for WHEN PB MET J…no wonder I love the art so much!
Here’s a craft activity that is sure to make kids smile…they can use it for Valentine’s Day cards or for letters they exchange with friends or for anything special that they write. Years ago, we did this activity in my kindergarten class, but it’s so simple, even younger children will have fun.
Make a Love Boat Mailbox for Valentine’s Day cards or any special friendship notes.
You will need: Shoebox with lid, piece of cardboard (from cereal box or men’s dress shirt), construction paper, markers or crayons, white school glue or glue stick, scissors, Valentine stickers (optional…you can always cut them out of construction paper).
1. Cut the piece of cardboard to fit the front of the bottom of the box as the “bow” of the boat. Glue in place.
2. Cut a hole in the lid for the “mail” slot.
3. Cover the outside of the box and the lid with construction paper and glue in place.
4. Cut several strips of paper and roll to form the smoke-stacks. Glue in place.
5. You can add decorations and designs with markers, crayons and stickers.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! With the wind chill factor, it’s supposed to be -30 degrees F here in New Hampshire – warming up on Saturday to about 10 degrees F. Brrrrr. But I’m staying warm, putting together the Heads-Up-The-#50PreciousWords-Contest-Is-Coming post that will go live tomorrow morning with all of the guidelines so that you can start writing your entry and all of the PRIZES – what incredibly generous industry professionals we have in our kidlit community!
Make sure you leave a c:omment to be entered in the giveaway…and for extra tickets in the giveaway hat, please follow author Katelyn Aronson on Twitter: @mademoiselleK8 Insta: @authorkatelyn Web: www.katelynaronson.com And if you read the book, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviews are very important!
Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. I probably connected with the author of today’s featured book during one of the #50PreciousWords contests (which is coming up soon – March 3-5 – so please stay tuned for details). I don’t know if Kelly Swemba entered a form of MISSING VIOLET, but if she did, I’m sure it was a winner because it’s a wonderful story. The book launches on January 31 (Yup…just a few more days – but it’s available for PRE-ORDER at your local indie bookstores and Amazon). And the lovely Kelly is offering a giveaway – one lucky person is going to win a copy of MISSING VIOLET! Please make sure you leave a comment at the end of the post – and please share on your social media for extra tickets in the giveaway hat.
FOR WRITERS, ILLUSTRATORS, PARENTS, TEACHERS, LIBRARIANS, AND BOOK LOVERS EVERYWHERE
OUR GUESTS: PICTURE BOOK JUNCTION
What a fabulous post this is going to be! We are welcoming FIVE members of Picture Book Junction who all have beautiful picture books launching in 2023. Later in the year, we’ll host a bunch more…and at the end of the year, we’ll feature the rest of this talented group of authors and illustrators.
You all know the questions that I usually ask: 1. Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child? 2. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing? 3. Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper? 4. When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, or as the muse strikes? 5. Why do you write for children? And also, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share. As well as anything else you want to talk about that parents, educators, writers, and librarians might want to hear.
So, dear readers, please keep those questions in mind as you scroll down the post, as each guest will answer them in their own way. First up at bat is the lovely Ana Siqueria. You’ve met Ana on my blog because I’ve featured several of her books in past posts. And I got to know Ana a bit better because we worked on a proposal together for NCTE this coming November – fingers crossed that the committee loves it.
I loved reading books about children grieving or suffering. My favorites were David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, and my super favorite: Meu Pe de Laranja Lima by Jose Mauro de Vasconcellos. And a funny thing, now I love writing humor.
I learned to let the stories simmer in my head before writing them. So, I have an idea. I write it down and in this document, I write all the ideas that come to my head. Then, I read more books with similar topics and keep on writing ideas until… Boom! I am able to write a skeleton and then I write the story. That saved me from writing 1000 versions to maybe five or six. But each person has a different process. You need to discover what works for you.
Since I work full-time as a teacher, I wake up earlier and write before I start teaching at 8:30. Then, after work, I can read, and do critiques or webinars. It’s hard to write in the afternoon after a full day of work.
I think I’m still a child at heart, My grandson says I’m super silly. My family thinks I’m goofy. So, what can I do? All the adventures in my head and heart need to come out on paper. And, children are the best. Also, being a member of a Brazilian-Cuban-American family, I make sure all my stories have latinx children. As a co-founder of @Latinxpitch, I believe all children need to see them in stories.
Bonus: Educators, Librarians, and parents, check some activities, including my teacher’s guide activities for my two first books. I will be completing my Abuela one soon, but most ideas can be used for Abuela too. Check them HERE.
Books coming out in 2023: ABUELA’S SUPER CAPA/ LA SUPER CAPA DE ABUELA – A heartwarming bilingual picture book about a young boy who learns to accept that Abuela needs to retire her super capa. Perfect for families experiencing sickness and loss, this engaging multigenerational story will help young children find the language to express their feelings and adjust to change. Simultaneously published in Spanish: La supercapa de Abuela
*****Ana will be donating a Picture Book Critique (fiction, and non-rhyming)*****
Lisa Varchol Perron
I loved the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish, the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol, and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. My favorite picture book was The Bed Book by Sylvia Plath. It’s playful and imaginative, and I still have a copy!
I wish I’d known that it’s okay to write in the way that comes most readily to me instead of focusing on what I think I “should” write. Worrying too much about outcomes can really stifle my productivity. The biggest example of this relates to rhyme. Early on, I heard there was no interest in rhyming picture books, so I tried to limit myself to writing in prose. This was tough because I’ve loved poetry throughout my life, and I think the structure provided by rhyme and meter can help stories come together in such a satisfying way. Thankfully, another author I admire encouraged me to start submitting my rhyming manuscripts, which led to my first book deal (and five more rhyming books on the way). When I try writing to any sort of “should” statement, it tends to fall flat.
I write mostly on my laptop at the dining room table, but I get a lot of ideas (especially for poems) while I’m outside, and I have to repeat lines to myself so I don’t forget them!
I write while my kids are at school on days when I’m not working. I also take my laptop or a notebook in the car when I’m waiting for my daughters at different activities. If I’m working on a novel, I need larger chunks of time, but for poems and picture books, I can write in shorter increments.
There is a sense of openness and curiosity we tend to have as children, and I love engaging with that in my writing!
Bonus: I’ve found it helpful to experiment with different styles and structures to figure out what works best for a project. Even if a story doesn’t get finished, I never consider writing time “wasted” because it’s all part of the creative process.
PATTERNS EVERYWHERE – Look around and discover patterns in the natural world—from leaf veins to snowflakes to sand dunes. Rhyming verse is accompanied by stunning photographs, and brief sidebars explain how these different patterns form.
For my bio and news about other upcoming books please visit https://lisaperronbooks.com/ and sign up for my mailing list! You can also find me on Twitter and IG @LisaVPerron.
*****Lisa will be donating a 20-minute “Ask Me Anything” Zoom call/critique.*****
Oh, I had so many favorites growing up. James Marshall, Beatrix Potter, Richard Scarry, Shel Silverstein, Beverly Cleary, E.B. White…and I’m from Boston, so Robert McCloskey, of course! I was also really into comic-strip collections—Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts. You know, the greats.
I wish I’d known that even once you start writing, it can still take a long time to figure out what kind of writing you want to do, and that’s okay. For years, I experimented. I tried writing plays, a middle-grade novel, I took a stab at country songs. The moment I FINALLY realized I should be writing picture books—eureka! I think I cried. It felt right. And it was only after that that I realized I should be writing children’s poetry, and then things got really good. So yeah, the first few miles of my writing path were pretty bumpy, but they still led me here.
I write in a little corner of my living room, mostly on the PC—words just come easier to me when I’m typing than when I’m writing by hand (or even talking). But once I hit the revision stage, I ALWAYS print out my drafts and scrawl all over them in pen. You should see the leaning tower of manuscripts by my desk, it’s huge and ridiculous.
I haven’t been able to make a writing schedule stick yet! I will say this: when I’m in the middle of a project, I write a lot, day or night, all the time. But when it’s time to start a project? Ugh. I can go weeks without writing because I hate starting projects so much. Writing poetry helps with that, though. Starting a single poem never feels as daunting as starting a whole book, but sometimes the poems I write lead to a whole book, see? It’s all very sneaky, but I’m definitely not above tricking myself into starting something new.
I write for children for a million different reasons. I’ve always loved how picture books can say so much with so few words. I love illustration, and how when the right words and illustrations are paired together, a book can become a timeless work of art. I love kids, and feel deep empathy for them (childhood can be a LOT), and I think I’m still just a big kid in some ways. Plus, I grew up in a house where goofy jokes and horrible puns were getting thrown around on a daily basis, and that’s come in surprisingly handy!
Bonus: Aspiring writers: don’t be shy about jumping into the kidlit world, joining groups and asking questions. Hey, I’ll answer your questions. It’s a warm, kind, wonderful community. There’s no reason to go it alone!
Book and Bio: ANIMALS IN PANTS (Cameron Kids, April 2023) is an irreverently illustrated picture book of simple and silly poems featuring all kinds of animals wearing all kinds of pants.
*****Suzy will be donating a Children’s Poem Critique (rhyming only, please).*****
As a child, I loved books by Dr. Suess, as well as the Amelia Bedelia series, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, and once I was older, the Babysitters Club and my absolute favorite, Nancy Drew. I can still vividly remember choosing my next Nancy Drew book during library visits and the anticipation of reading it as I walked to the car (and of course, that library book smell)!
When I first started writing, I was so focused on writing a character-driven story that followed all the rules. I wish I had known the value of studying poetry as a picture book writer and the joy of writing nonfiction, concept books, poetic picture books and the many, many ways to tell a story. I also felt early on that I should only focus on writing picture books. I wish I had known that writing for all ages could one day be in my wheelhouse.
I start everything with pen and paper in my first drafts notebook. Once I have a draft that I like, I type it onto a Pages document, revising as I go. When I’m stuck, I do my best thinking outside while walking in my neighborhood or in the woods…and sometimes while I’m driving. Any ideas I conjure up end up in my iPhone notes app or in my timer app as reminders for the next time I sit down.
I usually write first drafts while sitting on the couch or at my kitchen counter, between 5 and 6 am. All computer work happens at my desk during the day. I am most productive in the winter (January-March) and I may write daily. Then I spend the rest of the year researching and revising when I have time. I require complete silence to write at home which is often hard to come by!
Sharing picture books with my students when I was an elementary school teacher was my favorite part of teaching. I loved choosing a book to anchor for a unit or a lesson and planning the myriad of ways I could use the book to teach concepts and drive discussions. Watching my students and later my own children fall in love with authors and stories was heartwarming. I write for children to inspire a love of books and a passion for our environment.
Bonus: I truly believe in the human capacity to learn how to do anything. Whether we are trying to write a book, reach a student, or master a concept or skill, a positive mindset will always be able to turn “I can’t” into “I will.”
THE PLANET WE CALL HOME (March 2023) is a lyrical and loving ode to planet Earth and the ways in which its features are connected to each other and to the people who call Earth home.
Aimee Isaac has been a teacher, an advocate, a parent, and now an author. Aimee writes picture books and poetry inspired by her love of nature as well as her rambunctious kids. When she isn’t writing, Aimee is volunteering, reading, hiking, or keeping up with her busy family. She lives in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with her husband and three children. Connect with her at aimeeisaac.com and @IsaacAimee on Twitter.
*****Aimee will be donating a picture book manuscript critique (fiction or nonfiction).*****
I loved Eric Carle and Leo Lionni’s work.
JUST A WORM is my debut book and I’m learning so much with it. There are so many things that I wish I had known earlier. For far too long I let all of the things I didn’t know and hadn’t done stand in my way. I wish had known that the only things I really needed to do were to keep writing and making art.
Where I’d like to write and where I actually write are two very different things. I’d like to write on my laptop with an external monitor and keyboard in a quiet, beautifully decorated room with a lovely view. In reality, I often write on my phone or, if I’m lucky, at my desk at home with noise-cancelling headphones.
I have two young kids and am a law professor so I do my creative writing when I have time. Often that’s when I’m waiting for my kids, late at night, or in the early mornings when school is out.
I enjoy writing and making art and see both activities as expressions of love. My debut book, JUST A WORM, started as a bedtime story for my kids.
There are so many very kind and generous children’s authors and illustrators who want to see others flourish. So many people have shared their time, knowledge, and expertise with me and I hope to be able to pay it forward.
For parents, educators, and librarians: I illustrated JUST A WORM with quilled paper. I cut, coiled, and curled narrow strips of paper and used them to l construct colorful illustrations. Just a Worm includes a quilling craft for young readers as well as facts about earthworms, a glossary, and a special message from Worm.
Bonus: A video tutorial with three easy quilled crafts for kids inspired by the snails in JUST A WORM.
JUST A WORM (March 14, 2023): After being called “just a worm” by two children, Worm embarks on a journey around the garden to prove them wrong. Debut author-illustrator Marie Boyd seamlessly incorporates concepts of nature, natural selection, habitats, and interdependence in this picture book beautifully illustrated with a cut-paper technique called quilling.
Bio: Marie Boyd has a degree in chemistry and is a law professor. An expert in cosmetics and food regulation, she loves spending time outside, cooking, and quilling. Just a Worm is her first book for children. Marie lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband and kids. You can follow her at www.marieboyd.com where she shares craft ideas and more. She is on Instagram @artistscholar.
*****Marie will be donating a 20-minute “Ask Me Anything” Zoom call/critique.*****
And we’re not done, dear friends. Beause this is a post with multiples of everything, Ana Siqueria provided TWO recipes for us! They can be found by clicking the following links:
WOWOWOWOW! Take a deep breath, everyone! That was a whole lot of awesomeness! Thank you so much to Ana, Lisa, Suzy, Aimee, and Marie! Your books are absolutely amazing!!! I hope everyone buys them, reviews them, shares them with friends, and asks their local libraries to purchase copies for their collections. To remind you of the giveaways: ANA SIQUERIA: Picture Book Manuscript Critique – Nonrhyming fiction LISA VARCHOL PERRON: 20-minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom SUZY LEVINSON: A Children’s Rhyming Poem Critique MARIE BOYD: 20-minute Ask-Me-Anything Zoom AIMEE ISAAC: Picture Book Manuscript Critique – fiction or nonfiction So…when you leave your comment, please let us know if you’d like to be in the running for one of the giveaways…and which one...I want to make sure that we don’t award a rhyming poem critique to someone who doesn’t write poetry. And if you only write rhyming nonfiction, you won’t want the nonrhyming fiction prize.
I hope you all have a beautiful weekend and a week filled with magical moments.