Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. Back in 2020, one of our Will Write for Cookies guests was the lovely Laurie Smollett Kutscera. Her wonderful MG chapter book, ADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON, had just been published. And now, I’m thrilled to feature her debut picture book, MAYA’S TREASURE. Congratulations, Laurie! The book is amazing!
Written and Illustrated by Laurie Smollett Kutscera
Published by Peter Pauper Press (2021)
Themes: Family, SEL, creativity
Synopsis: From the Amazon Sales Page:
Keeping close the words and memories of her grandmother, a young girl is determined to craft a treasure from cast-off bits of shell in this beautiful picture book.
- Each morning when the sun rises, Maya and her sister, Alita, go to the shore to collect the beautiful seashells the waves wash up on the beach overnight.
- The sisters scrub their finds until they sparkle like stars, then string them together to make beautiful jewelry they can sell to the people in their island village.
- When Alita discards shells she deems too broken or ugly, Maya rescues them and remembers the words of her grandmother: ”Even the tiniest nub can be quite beautiful. You just have to find the magic in it.”
- But can Maya turn the cast-off shells into something truly special?
- Vibrant full-color pastel illustrations throughout evoke magic and memory.
- By the illustrator of ”Ravita and the Land of Unknown Shadows” and the author/illustrator of ”Misadventures of a Magician’s Son.
WHY I LOVE THIS BOOK:
1. I remember loving Peter Pauper Press editions years ago and I’m so glad they are still making beautiful books – Laurie, the author/illustrator did a magical job with the illustrations!
2. I love the intergenerational aspect of the story!
3. I love that the main character stays true to herself and finds beauty in imperfection!
As Laurie and I were chatting about this post, I asked her if there were any special moments that happened on her path to publication. I was blown away by several things that she said…and I’m soo thrilled that she stopped by today to share them with all of you.
ME: WELCOME, LAURIE!
LAURIE: Thank you so much, Vivian. It’s a pleasure to be here.
While we all hope our journey to publication is as effortless as our dreams, mine was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated. Just before Peter Pauper Press contacted me with an offer of publication, I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. By the time the contract was signed I had a lumpectomy and was scheduled for radiation treatments. I began work on the pastel paintings at the same time the treatments were taking place, but by the 2nd week of treatment, I had 2nd degree burns along my right side under my arm. Here, I had FINALLY found a home for Maya, and now I couldn’t raise my arm to draw! With the deadline drawing near, I was in a panic. I gave myself a few days to heal, then slathered myself in ointment, made myself a Tylenol cocktail and got back to work. I didn’t stop until all the illustrations were completed.
When Peter Pauper finished laying Maya’s Treasure out, they sent me a pdf for my approval. I almost had a heart attack! In my rush to make the deadline, I had forgotten to add the string holding up the chimes! The chimes were floating below the branch and no one noticed it! Thank goodness it hadn’t gone to press. At the last minute, I was able to add a crucial detail. Moral of the story…stress gets you no where!
I also want to share where I got some of my inspiration and encouragement from. About 7 years ago, my husband gave me a lovely book to encouraging me through the challenges we’ve all experienced trying to get published. It’s called Reaching For The Stars. Everyday, I would go in my studio and work on Maya’s Treasure hoping one day it would find the perfect home. I’d pick up this sweet little book and read a few inspirational quotes to help me stay positive. Below are a few inspirational quotes that helped keep me going when I had my doubts. That little book, as it turns out, was published by Peter Pauper Press!
And the last thing I want to share is that you never know what opportunity will come along that will encourage you to write a story that will become a book. Last April, when I was one of the 50 Precious Word winners, I won a critique and choose Tina Cho. She gave me some small but important suggestions on editing the text. Just a few nuggets that really added the final polish before I submitted the dummy to PPP. So thank you for that!!!
ME: WOW…that’s fabulous, Laurie. Tina is one of my long-time critique buddies and she gives fabulous feedback! I’m so happy you participated in #50PreciousWords…and won the opportunity to get her thoughts on your manuscript. As you mentioned…you never know where the steps you take will lead you. But the important thing is…to take the steps!!!!
WOW…summer is over here in New England, but there are plenty of kids who are living near shorelines where you can go walking along the beach on a sunny autumn day to collect shells. And, if you live where it is warm all year long and you are near a place where shells abound, I hope you go for it. If getting out to a shell-gathering spot is impossible, you can purchase bags of shells. And I guarantee you will want to when you see the awesome shell crafts here: https://www.kidslovewhat.com/28-seashell-crafts-for-kids-to-make-this-summer/
And we are so lucky because the talented Laurie and her publisher are offering a copy of this beautiful book as a giveaway – all you need to do is leave a comment below…can you share what your special treasure was when you were a child? And, if you post the blog link on your social media, you get extra tickets in the giveaway hat.
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Stay safe and well.