Perfect Picture Book Friday: Bat Count

What a special time of year! For me, Thanksgiving is for bringing people closer together…and we all need that, right? I hope you had a beautiful day yesterday, whether or not you celebrate Thanksgiving.

Working together is an important skill…we’ve seen lately what can happen when people don’t come together. What impresses me the most about this kid lit community is that many groups are formed to enable people to work towards a common goal. One of the new groups I am now part of is Picture The Books 2017…a group of authors and illustrators whose debut picture books are coming out next year. And one of those books is my Perfect Picture Book Friday selection for today.

But oh my goodness…as happens very often, first we need to make an important announcement.

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The lovely Susanna Hill has announced her famous Holiday Writing Contest. The rules are simple…a holiday story for children (ages 12 and under) that is 300 words or less. I’ll be participating again this year…will you? Joining in Susanna’s writing contests is a great way for writers to get their work out there and submit to a positive and loving audience. For all the details, please click here. And don’t forget, there are always GREAT PRIZES!

And now, thank you for your patience…it’s time for our #PPBF review.

bat-count-by-anna-forrester

BAT COUNT

Written by Anna Forrester

Illustrated by Susan Detwiler

Publisher: Arbordale Publishing (2017)

Ages: Preschool – Grade 3

Themes:

Family life, diversity, bats, animal conservation

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

Jojo is prepping for an exciting night; it’s time for the bat count! Bats have always been a welcome presence during the summers in the family barn. But over the years, the numbers have dwindled as many bats in the area caught white-nose syndrome. Jojo and her family count the bats and send the numbers to scientists who study bats, to see if the bat population can recover. On a summer evening, the family quietly makes their way to the lawn to watch the sky and count the visitors to their farm.

Opening Lines:

“The sun is dropping behind the ridge and the red-winged blackbirds have quit their squalling, so I know it’s almost time.”

Why I like this book:

  • If you read the opening line above, you already know one reason why I love this book…the language is so lyrical…the author did a wonderful job of picking just the right words.
  • This is a beautiful family story on two levels…the little girl’s family who track and count the bats…and the bat family that they hope will be there.
  • Much of the story takes place at dusk…the illustrator was able to capture that low light, yet still give the reader wonderful pictures showing true emotion in the faces of the people.
  • I take my hat off to Arbordale Publishing…many of the pages are dark (see above), but they made sure to put easy to read white print in a large enough font that children will be comfortable reading. I can’t tell you how many picture books I am unable to read to my grandson because the contrast between the text and the background of the page is nonexistent…dark gray letters on dark blue background, for instance.

 

RELATED ACTIVITIES

  1. The back matter is excellent…four pages of learning activities
  2. More free activities at: ArbordalePublishing.com
  3. Find out if there are any animal count activities going on in your community and participate with your child.
  4. The book is a fabulous resource for elementary schools plus a wonderful story for every family. It launches in Feburary 2017 and is available on Amazon for preorder.

 

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill. Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. It will be December when I see you next.

December is going to be an exciting month…we have TWO Will Write for Cookies interviews AND giveaways. The first is with Jessica Lawson…and the second is with Duncan Tonatiuh. WOW!

And don’t forget Susanna’s Holiday Writing Contest.

To help start the year off, I’m participating in a Happiness Challenge for December: www.truly-julie.com/happiness-challenge

And I’ll also be making a list of the stories I think I’d like to write in 2017…for some I’ll just have a title…for others, just a topic. I’ve done this for the last few years and it really helps me focus and be more productive when I know beforehand what I’d like to be writing/researching about. I learned this from Kristen Fulton in her Nonfiction Archaeology class…but it works even if you write fiction.

In addition, I have work to do for the editor of Sweet Dreams, Sarah…I need to make a list of bloggers who will review my debut picture book or post an interview or Q&A...plus shout out on Twitter, Facebook and other social media when the book launches in the spring. It’s going to be a very busy time if the launch is on schedule because I’ll have just finished the #50PreciousWords Challenge. By the way, some of you have already volunteered to do a post in the book blog tour...please PM or email me if you’d like to be involved. And ditto for the #50PreciousWords Challenge…if you’d like to donate something (kidlit book, class, critique, art, etc), please let me know. My wonderful agent, Essie White, has already offered to do another critique as a prize…and if any of you remember, the 1st place winner chose that and is now one of Essie’s clients. I know it is not until March, but time has a way of sneaking up on us.

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Emma Bland Smith: Will Write for Cookies PLUS GIVEAWAY

 

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

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INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

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EMMA BLAND SMITH

Joining Storm Literary Agency connected me with a wonderful family of awesome authors and illustrators. They are smart and super supportive. And I’m thrilled to welcome one of them to Will Write for Cookies.

Emma Bland Smith is a mom, librarian, and writer. She was born in Scotland, grew up in San Francisco, and has lived in New York, Santa Barbara, and Paris…no wonder she wrote a book called Journey. Now she’s back home in San Francisco, living a block away from the house she grew up in. Her past careers have included magazine editor and French teacher. Today she works part-time as a librarian and fills the rest of her time volunteering at her kids’ school, leading a Girl Scouts troop, driving to baseball practice, cooking, gardening, and writing.  

Emma, I’m not sure how you find time for the writing with all those other activities…but thank goodness you do. I want to remind everyone that there will be a giveaway of a copy of Emma’s BRAND NEW picture book, Journey: The Most Famous Wolf in the West (click here to read my Perfect Picture Book Friday review)…so please stick with us throughout the post and then leave a comment at the end.

 ME: Who were your favorite authors/illustrators when you were a child?

 EMMA:

I was definitely a book worm, and the first books I remember reading on my own, starting in about first grade, were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. So many lines from those books, along with the evocative illustrations by Garth Williams, are ingrained in my mind! After that, the book I remember the most clearly is Ramona the Pest. I used to get so indignant on Ramona’s behalf, when the she got in trouble for pulling Susan’s curls! I loved Henry Higgins, too. I remember practically dying of anxiety when Henry smuggled Ribsy onto the bus in a box, and Ribsy slowly began to wiggle his way out of the box, to Henry’s horror. The way that Beverly Cleary makes the reader pull for her characters is extraordinary. When I got older, I read the entire Green Gables series over and over until they fell apart. In about sixth grade I began reading James Herriot and Gerald Durrell, and their beautiful imagery, compassion, humor, and language were very influential for me years later, when I began to write.

Picture books I remember from childhood and still love include Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, Charlie Needs a Cloak, Dogger (and anything by Shirley Hughes), and Madeline.

 ME: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started writing for children?

EMMA:  

I should say that I wish I had known what a long haul this journey would be. I started writing about seven years ago, and of course I expected to get published right away! However, if someone had told me that my first book wouldn’t come out for seven years, I probably would have given up, so maybe it’s for the best that I started out so naïve!

I wish I had read more books and blogs about picture book writing, attended more conferences, and taken more classes. It took me a few years to jump into the kidlit world with both feet. Now that I’m here, I learn something every day.

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ME: Where do you like to write/draw – inside, outside, a special area in your home, on the computer, in a notebook? And when do you find time to write?

EMMA:

I write either on the sofa or out in the backyard, with my computer on my lap. (Sitting outside can be very effective. It’s harder to get out there, but once I’m there, I’m not as distracted by constantly nagging housework, paperwork, and other obligations.) The only time I’ll write with pen and paper is when I’m out and get inspiration on the run. Then I’ll frantically make notes on notebooks, receipts, anything I can find. (I highly recommend something like this! If I don’t jot things down, I will forget them, no matter how sure I was that they’d stick with me!)

ME: When during the day (or night) are you most productive? Do you set a schedule for working or do you write/draw when the muse speaks?

EMMA:

As soon as my kids are at school, I sit down and dig into any real writing I might have on my plate. I don’t write on schedule and my work is pretty varied. On any given day, I might work on critiques for my critique partners, revise a manuscript and send it to my agent, start something new, or work on an article for Red Tricycle. And there are plenty of days I don’t write at all. I definitely work as the muse strikes, but I don’t procrastinate much, so if someone asks me for a revision, I usually get it done within a few days.

ME: Why do you write for children?

EMMA:

I write for children because I want to be part of what I think is the most beautiful, dynamic, challenging literary field. When my kids were young, I was reading them all these wonderful books, and I remember being so amazed at the quality of children’s literature. One of the first picture books that made me want to be a children’s book writer was Someday, by Alison McGhee. That book just slayed me with its lyricism and ability to touch the emotions. Another inspiration was the Henry and Mudge books by Cynthia Rylant. I would love to create books that grab readers the way these do.

ME: Emma, 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, librarians might want to hear.

EMMA:

One thing I’d recommend to beginning writers is to think about looking for an agent first, rather than submitting mostly to publishers. Although some writers do land a book contract on their own, unagented, it’s hard. Once you have an agent, you have someone on your side, who has access to all the houses, and who will take care of all submissions, so that you can focus on writing.

And the single most important thing new writers can do is join a critique group! It can be in person or online. I learn so much from critiquing and reading other people’s critiques. It can be a little hard to receive criticism, and sometimes I need a few days to digest major edits. (The worst is always hearing that everyone likes the concept and the beginning, but that the middle and ending don’t work at all!) But eventually, I end up seeing their points, and I revise the manuscript and send it right back for another round. Most of my manuscripts simply wouldn’t exist without the help of my critique partners!

Oh, Emma! I totally agree with you…critique groups are such an important part of our writing journey. And I thank you so very much for participating in Will Write for Cookies…this was so much fun!

 And for all of you who want to find out more about Emma and her awesome book or get in touch with her:

Twitter

Facebook

Author Website

Okay friends…please take a breath…because we are not finished yet. Emma has shared one of her favorite cookie recipes.

Lace Cookies

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Our whole family looks forward to these cookies every year at the holidays! The recipe, from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, is incredibly easy to make, and after you try one, it will become one of your regulars, too!

1 ½ cups uncooked oatmeal

1 ½ cups light brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup melted butter

1 egg, slightly beaten

½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix the oatmeal, sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter, then add the eggs and vanilla and combine. Arrange the batter by teaspoonful, about 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly, removing the cookies from the cookie sheet with a spatula as soon as they are firm.

What a perfect recipe for the holidays…a million thanks, Emma!

And now, dear friends, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Emma’s beautiful picture book. If you could take a journey to anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend…and all good wishes for a blessed Thanksgiving.

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Journey: The Most Famous Wolf in the West

Hurray for Perfect Picture Book Friday! I started blogging at the end of 2010. I knew I wanted my posts to appeal to parents and teachers so right away, I reserved one day for writing a picture book review. That’s because in my opinion, reading to young children is of the utmost importance. And there are so many choices out there, I thought it might be helpful to highlight the picture books I wanted to recommend.

Then I discovered that a wonderful picture book author, Susanna Leonard Hill, had started a link up on her website for picture book reviews. I went. I saw. I fell in love. And the rest if history. I’ve been participating in her Perfect Picture Book Friday hop ever since. Click here for more of this week’s wonderful reviews on her blog.

Today’s selection is very close to my heart for several reasons. I’ve always had a fascination with wolves. And the author of the book, Emma Bland Smith, is a fellow Storm Literary Agency teammate. PLUS, Emma will be my Will Write for Cookies guest tomorrow…so don’t miss her interview and a GIVEAWAY of this beautiful book in tomorrow’s post.

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JOURNEY: The Most Famous Wolf in the West

Written by Emma Bland Smith

Illustrated by Robin James

Publisher: Little Bigfoot (Imprint of Sasquatch Books: 2016)

Ages: Kindergarten – Grade 4

Themes:

Wolves, animal conservation

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

This beautiful picture book follows the journey of a young gray wolf who garnered nationwide attention when he became the first wild wolf in California in almost a century. Using facts recorded by Fish & Wildlife scientists, author Emma Bland Smith imagines the wolf’s experiences in close detail as he makes an epic 2,000-mile trek over three years time. The wolf’s story is interwoven with the perspective of a young girl who follows his trek through the media. As she learns more about wolves and their relationships with humans, she becomes determined to find a way to keep him safe by making him a wolf that is too famous to harm.

Opening Lines:

“The wolf took one last look at his mother and his father.”

Why I like this book:

  • This is an absolutely beautiful book on two levels…the story of the wolf seeking a new home to make a family…and the story of a girl who follows the wolf’s journey…what a perfect way for young children to connect with the concept of animal conservation and realize that even a child can make a difference.
  • The text engages the reader/listener from the first lines to the last. And the illustrations by Robin James are exquisite!

RELATED ACTIVITIES

  1. In the back matter, the author provides a wealth of information about the wolf’s journey and many related classroom activities, plus there is a teacher’s guide at sasquatchbooks.com
  2. Find out if there are any animal conservation efforts in your area.

 

This post is part of a series for parents and teachers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays hosted by Susannah Leonard Hill. Click on her link and find lots of other picture book suggestions with summaries and activities.

And don’t forget…please don’t miss tomorrow’s post when

EMMA BLAND SMITH

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

PLUS A GIVEAWAY OPPORTUNITY – A COPY OF JOURNEY

PPBF: Officer Buckle and Gloria & We Have a WINNER!

NOVEMBER is Child Safety and Protection Month. So I thought it might be a great idea, for Perfect Picture Book Friday, to review an oldie, but goodie, by Peggy Rathmann.

But first, a couple of important announcements:

  1. Hallweensie Contest Update: I hope everyone will head over to Susanna Hill’s blog this weekend…all of the Halloweensie Contest entries are available to read. And next week, Susanna will be posting the finalists…you WON’T want to miss VOTING! Just think…two opportunities to VOTE…and with the craziness that’s surrounded our nation’s Presidential race, I’m thinking that picking  your favorite Halloweensie entry will be a much more pleasant task than picking the next President of the United States.
  2. Giveaway Updatte: At the end of this post I’ll be announcing the winner of A Morning with Grandpa, the beautiful debut picture book by Sylvia Liu.
  3. Sweet Dreams, Sarah Update: I’m really excited to be part of a group of 2017 debut picture book authors…we’ve got a new website where teachers, librarians, parents, and all book-lovers will find information about the upcoming book launches, events, and other book-related activities. I encourage you to visit, follow, and fill out the survey…there will be PRIZES! And we also have a Twitter home: @PictureTheBooks…I hope you will hop over and like us.

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OFFICER BUCKLE AND GLORIA

Written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (1995)

Ages: 4-8

Themes:

Safety, teamwork

Synopsis:

From Amazon:

Officer Buckle is a roly-poly bloke, dedicated to teaching schoolchildren important safety tips, such as never put anything in your ear and never stand on a swivel chair. The problem is, Officer Buckle’s school assemblies are dull, dull, dull, and the children of Napville just sleep, sleep, sleep. That is, until Gloria the police dog is invited along! Stealthily pantomiming each safety tip behind Officer Buckle’s back, Gloria wins the children’s hearts. Meanwhile Officer Buckle assumes the cheers and laughter are all for him. As the master comedian Jerry Lewis once explained, every slapstick artist needs a straight man! Children will be highly entertained by the laugh-out-loud, adorable illustrations in this 1996 Caldecott Medal winner, while learning the value of teamwork and a pawful of nifty safety tips.

Opening Lines:

“Officer Buckle knew ore safety tips than anyone else in Napville.”

 Why I like this book:

  • This book is hilariously funny…Officer Buckle has no clue that Gloria, his dog, is creating the stir among the students…he thinks it is his brilliant presentation.
  • Wonderful illustrations mesh perfectly with the text.
  • It won the Caldecott…enough said.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

  1. Talk about safety in the home…walk through the house with your child and make a list of things that need to be attended to…and then do them.
  2. More safety tips here: http://www.parentguidenews.com/Articles/NovemberBringsChildSafety PreventionMonth

Have a wonderful weekend! I’m going to really enjoy this month…did you know it is also Peanut Butter Lovers Month! But Peanut Butter isn’t the only type of nut butter you can enjoy…I’m a fan of Almond Butter and Sunflower Butter. My favorite way to eat it is slathered on apple slices. YUM! How about you? What type of nut butter is your favorite?

And next week I’ll be flying to Florida to attend my daughter’s destination wedding on St. Pete’s Beach…I’m pretty excited, as you can imagine. Can hardly keep things straight.

Oh, wait a minute…that’s right…we need to announce who won the copy of A Morning with Grandpa.

AND THE WINNER IS:

KELLY LANIHAN

Kelly, congratulations!!! And I will contact you by email so I can get your address.

Stay tuned, dear readers…later this month we’ll be welcoming Emma Bland Smith to the Will Write for Cookies spotlight…and another giveaway…of her debut picture book, JOURNEY.