Perfect Picture Book Friday: FOLLOW ME DOWN TO NICODEMUS TOWN Plus Giveaway

Hurray! The first Perfect Picture Book Friday post of 2019! This year is shaping up to be a wild rollercoaster of adventure for me. So it made sense to review a book about a group of pioneers who also experienced a challenging journey. Oh, by the way, did I mention these pioneers were African Americans? The book is fiction, but based on true events – the story of the town of Nicodemus, Kansas, where, in 1877, former slaves could purchase a large tract of prairie land for $5…all they had to do was chop down trees to build their homes, hunt animals to provide food for their families, plow the hardscrabble ground to plant crops, and survive the harsh winters, frozen rivers, and lack of supportive neighboring towns.

Follow Me Cover Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: FINDING A DOVE FOR GRAMPS Plus Critique Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. The year is winding down, but the windfall of fabulous picture books of 2018 is not. And the author of today’s book is offering a VERY special giveaway: a Picture Book Critique OR the first 10 pages of a novel. Continue reading

VIVIANE ELBEE: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Viviane Headshot

VIVIANE ELBEE

Continue reading

Perfect Picture Book Friday: TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, my friends. The mailbox has been a flurry of awesome activity this week…lots of new picture books! And since this one is launching in just a couple of days, I wanted to share it with you. PLUS, the author, Viviane Elbee, will be stopping by tomorrow to chat on Will Write for Cookies AND she is offering a copy of her debut picture book for a giveaway!

TeachYourGiraffeToSki_cover_final

TEACH YOUR GIRAFFE TO SKI

Written by Viviane Elbee

Illustrated by Danni Gowdy

Publlished by Albert Whitman (November 1, 2018)

Ages: 3-6

Themes: Facing fears, friendship

Opening lines: “Uh-oh. It’s snowing and your giraffe wants you to teach her to ski.”

Synopsis: 

What do you do when your giraffe wants to learn how to ski—but she wants to go down the big scary slope and you are NOT a fan of skiing even on the bunny slope? As the boy tries to control his giraffe and lead her to safer spots, he learns something about courage along the way and the reader learns about ski slope etiquette and the rudiments of skiing.

Why I like this book:

  • The illustrations are absolutely adorable as humans and animals strap on skis and share the slopes.
  • Kids will love the story…so over the top hilarious, but with important underlying messages of friendship and facing fears.
  • I enjoyed the larger typeface and I think beginning readers will be encouraged to try to read this themselves.

RELATED ACTIVITIES:

Paper Plate Giraffe

giraffe craftPhoto courtesy: https://familymaven.io

Paper plates are one of my favorite classic craft materials. For detailed instructions: https://familymaven.io/kidsactivities/kidsactivities/easy-giraffe-craft-for-kids-NQNcWRx1Z0SwCkAYeJjZ6w/

Please don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. And come back tomorrow when we chat with Viviane Elbee about her writing journey.

I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be at a local apple orchard with my grandson. Whatever you are doing, stay safe, and remember that authors need our support. Leaving a review, on Amazon, Goodreads, or other review sites, can really give a boost to the potential success of your favorite book!

 

 

 

Happy Book Birthday: CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT Plus Giveaway

FIRST POST OF THE YEAR!!! 

So you know it is going to be special, right?

Last year I featured as many 2017 picture books as I could. This year I plan to do the same thing for the debut picure books of 2018. HOPEFULLY, my Sweet Dreams, Sarah will be one of them! But for today, I’ve got a really special book for you! From a dear friend and critique buddy of mine, Nancy Churnin, who has a knack for finding golden nuggets of history and turning them into fabulous nonfiction picture books that children and adults will want to read again and again.

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT

charlie takes his shot

CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT: How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf

Written by Nancy Churnin

Illustrated by John Joven

Published by Albert Whitman

Ages: 5-8

Themes: Determination, Civil Rights, golf

Synopsis:

From Amazon:  Charlie Sifford loved golf, but in the 1930’s only white people were allowed to play in the Professional Golf Association. Sifford had won plenty of black tournaments, but he was determined to break the color barrier in the PGA. In 1960 he did, only to face discrimination from hotels that wouldn’t rent him rooms and clubs that wouldn’t let him use the same locker as the white players. But Sifford kept playing, becoming the first black golfer to win a PGA tournament and eventually ranking among the greats in golf.

Why I like this book:

  • I love when authors can entertain, educate, and inspire by taking an impottant event in history and making it come alive for kids
  • The text and illustrations engage from the first page to the last
  • This is an important moment that built on what had come before and opened doors for those who came after

 

RELATED ACTIVITIES

tin-can-golf-header-1Photo courtesy: https://www.thecrafttrain.com

Tin Can Golf is fun for young kids and can be ramped up to make it more challenging for older kids. For detailed instructions: https://www.thecrafttrain.com/tin-can-indoor-golf-fun-from-recycled-junk/

Thanks to author Nancy Churnin, we have a giveaway of a copy of CHARLIE TAKES HIS SHOT.  Please leave a comment to be entered.  Remember, there is only one copy that can be won, but the book JUST launched TODAY…so you can hop over to your favorite bookstore and get a copy And don’t forget that leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads only takes a couple of minutes, but it will mean the world to the author of that book you loved reading with your child.

Please come back tomorrow for the BOOK BIRTHDAY of LOVE, MAMA by Jeanette Bradley! 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO A YEAR FILLED WITH POSSIBILITIES!

HOW ABOUT YOU?

Rebecca Colby: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Double Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

Rebecca author photo 2017

 

REBECCA COLBY

I’ve known our Will Write for Cookies guest for just about as long as I’ve been active in kidlitland. And I’m so thrilled to finally get a chance to have her visit here.

Rebecca Colby is a children’s picture book author, poet, and screenwriter. Her fourth book just launched, CAPTAIN BLING’S CHRISTMAS PLUNDER (Albert Whitman). Her other books include MOTOR GOOSE (Feiwel & Friends, 2017)…which I just reviewed yesterday on Perfect Picture Book Friday, IT’S RAINING BATS AND FROGS (Feiwel and Friends, 2015), and THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE (Floris Picture Kelpies, 2014).

Rebecca, I am so very happy to welcome you to Picture Books Help Kids Soar!

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

REBECCA: There were lots but the ones that stand out from when I was of picture book reading age are James Marshall of the George and Martha stories, Dr Seuss, Garth Williams, Tasha Tudor, and Esther and Eloise Wilkin.

ME: What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing? 

REBECCA: That networking is as important as writing. You can’t write in isolation and expect to get anywhere. You’ve got to get out there and meet ‘your tribe’ and lift each other up!

ME: Where do you like to write – inside, outside, special room, laptop, pen and paper?

REBECCA: I prefer writing outside, but because of all the rainfall in England, that’s not always possible. I try to make the most of the spring and summer months by taking my laptop to a nearby garden and writing amongst the birds and flowers. During the colder months, I sit at home in bed, snuggled under the comforter where it’s warm and toasty. Another place I enjoy writing is on trains, but as a general rule, I prefer an environment that is quieter. For that reason, I’m not much of a coffee shop writer.

As to paper or laptop, laptop wins hands down. I learned to touch-type in high school—a course I wish schools would introduce alongside their IT classes for younger children—and as a result, I can write quicker and more efficiently (not to mention neater!), if I’m on my laptop. 

motor cover

ME: When do you write – early morning, late in the day, middle of the night, on schedule, as the muse strikes?

REBECCA: The earlier, the better. My Twitter handle is @amscribbler because, for many years, I did most of my writing between 5 and 7 am. I rarely write in the evening as, after 8pm, my brain starts to shut down. I tend to reserve the evenings for marketing, e-mails, reading and watching films.

Wait for the muse to strike? You must be joking! No, this is a job–one I love, but a job. I write because I want to be a career-author and that means showing up for work regardless of whether the muse has graced me with her presence or not.  Writers write!

ME: Why do you write for children?

REBECCA: Two main reasons: I enjoy children’s books far more than adult books and I want to bring more laughter into the world–and what better place to start than with kids’ books! My family would probably add that I’m a 7 year old at heart, so that probably has a lot to do with it also.

 

ME: 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, librarians might want to hear. 

REBECCA: Advice to writers:

I see a lot of writers posting their frustrations and disappointments on Facebook after receiving a handful of rejections, and I want to tell them that a handful is nothing. If they really want to get published they’ll stop counting the rejections and start counting the manuscripts they’ve written. My advice is: Up your game and keep getting better, and that means KEEP WRITING!

It’s a numbers as well as a talent game. I’ve had more than one published picture book author in the UK tell me that only about 1 in every 5 manuscripts they write is acquired—and this is from established authors. Don’t waste valuable time counting those rejections, or you may quit. I racked up about 140 rejections in 7 years (but, hey, who’s counting—shame I don’t take my own advice) but if I’d counted all the rejections as I’d gone along, I probably would have dropped out of the game. It was hard enough counting the years pass. So don’t count your failures, count your triumphs, and before you know it, you will ‘beat the odds’.

For educators and librarians:

I don’t consider my work finished on a book until I’ve completed an accompanying resource guide. If you’d like to use my books in a classroom or library setting, please feel free to download these free guides from my website at www.rebeccacolbybooks.com/teachers

Thank you for having me today, Vivian! Though I must admit, I’m much more of a cookie eater than a cookie maker. In fact, that’s why I’m here—you promised cookies! 😉

ME: Oh my goodness…you are so funny, Rebecca. And you are right…for all of your wonderful insights, you definitely deserve cookies!!! But I know you aren’t done yet…so please share your cookie recipe!

REBECCA: Here’s a recipe from my THERE WAS A WEE LASSIE WHO SWALLOWED A MIDGIE resource guide. It’s a recipe for Midgie Shortbread. Enjoy, and thanks again! 

 Midgie Shortbread

 midgie shortbread cookies

Cook shortbread with chocolate sprinkles.

Note: Be aware of any food allergies.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup chocolate sprinkles, plus some additional for topping
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Mix butter and sugar together.
  • Add vanilla and flour.
  • Fold in chocolate sprinkles.
  • Roll out dough until a half inch thick.
  • Cut into shapes.
  • Place on a baking tray.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  • Shake additional chocolates sprinkles over the top and cool.

 

ME: Wow! These look amazing, Rebecca! I am definitely a shortbread fan! Thank you so very much for all of your insights. And I’m thrilled to talk a bit about your newest book that just launched yesterday! I know it is a book everyone would love to win, especially with Christmas around the corner…so thank you so much for offering a double giveaway!!! And I encourage all of my readers to be writers also…when you read a book that you love, please take the time to leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads or other book review sites. This will mean so much to your favorite authors and illustrators!

Captain Bling updated cover

Captain Bling and his merry crew set off to find treasure, but they get blown off course and end up at the North Pole. When they spy the elves carefully wrapping presents, the pirates think they have found the ultimate booty! They quickly steal the presents and make their way back to the ship. By the time Santa Claus catches up to them, the pirates are well on their way to escaping. But Santa has a surprise for Captain Bling and his crew!
I can’t wait to read Rebecca’s newest book…it sounds like there are thrills and chills and perhaps, even some spills.
Have a wonderful weekend, dear friends. Thank you so much for spending your precious time here…I truly appreciate your visits and your comments.

From Idea to Book Deal to Stage Production..OH MY!

From Page to Stage

 

I didn’t intend to post on my blog today. I’ve been gearing up for the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge that opens…TOMORROW! But sometimes a window of opportunity opens…and the only thing to do is walk through it.

So, when one of my dear friends, Maryann Cocca-Leffler, shared this incredible story with me yesterday, I knew I had to share it with you.

Maryann Cocca-Leffler is the Author and Illustrator of over 60 children’s books including Princess K.I.M. and the Lie that Grew and Princess Kim and Too Much Truth from which this play is based. Inspired by her Italian-American upbringing in Boston, many of Maryann’s book ideas come from her own childhood, family and people she meets along the way. Her books include; Bus Route to Boston, Janine, Bravery Soup, A Homemade Together Christmas and the upcoming The Growing Season.  She holds a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art. When not in her NH studio, Maryann often travels to elementary schools nationwide to share her beloved books with young readers and when she can- see her play performed.

PLAY, YOU SAY? Read on, and all will be revealed!

maryann-with-coke

The Making of “Princess K.I.M. The Musical”

By Author-Illustrator-Playwright Maryann Cocca-Leffler

It all started in first grade. I had just started a new school and desperately wanted the kids to like me, so to impress them, I told a teeny lie. With my last name being ‘Cocca’, I informed my new classmates that my father owned the Coca Cola Company, (he didn’t). My well-intended scheme backfired and became a big problem when the kids discovered the truth. Lessoned learned.

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Fast forward 40 years …I was sitting in my studio trying to conjure up an idea for my next children’s book when my first grade ruse came to mind. The idea of a tiny lie growing out of control seemed like a great concept.  With some twists and imagination, the idea developed into my children’s book Princess K.I.M. and The Lie That Grew in which, Kim, my main character, tells a teeny lie to impress the kids in her new school. This time, Kim announces that she is from Royalty (she isn’t) and her lie grows into a big gigantic, sometimes comical, problem.  After submitting my idea to book publishers, I sold the story to Albert Whitman & Co. in 2008. (www.albertwhitman.com)

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As life would have it, about the same time, I happened to be involved in my community theater. I didn’t know it then, but soon the book world and the stage world would collide.  While creating the artwork for the book I started to see the illustrations as a “stage set” and my characters as “actors”.  I began to hear their voices and envision certain lines from the book being perfect lyrics for songs. On my vision board, where I post my big dreams, I wrote; “Make Princess KIM into a play”.

 

Princess K.I.M. And the Lie that Grew (the book) was published in 2009.  A few years later, after completing the art for the sequel, Princess Kim and Too Much Truth,

book-cover-2

I started seriously thinking about making my dream a reality. It was time to bring Princess KIM to the stage in the form of a Children’s Musical.  In late 2010 I began my path from Page to Stage.

 

The Team-

Confession- I cannot play a note of music. I am a writer, an artist with vision and a dreamer, but I’m also practical enough to know that I needed a creative team. I am also a believer that there are no coincidences. I can’t tell you how many times a conversation or an introduction led me to the person I was meant to meet. I also knew that if I wanted something, I’d have to have the courage to ASK!

With my mind open and my eyes on my goal, my path led me to my creative team; Theater professional, Toby Tarnow and two wonderful musicians, Andrew Cass and Premik Russell Tubbs, who, thankfully, where equally excited about my idea. (That’s the ‘Ask ‘part!)  We worked together for 16 months, writing the script and developing the music. We spent many hours either sitting around my piano with my children’s books and script in hand, or sending music and script files back and forth over the Internet. Through it all, this solitary author-Illustrator found a love and respect for the collaboration process, which in turn, resulted in a wonderful script and score…Princess K.I.M. The Musical.

beekaykidstogether-width-500Photo courtesy: Beekay Theater, Tehachapi, CA

Education & Mentors-

Having published over 60 children’s books, I knew a lot about the Book Publishing world, but not so much about the Theater Industry. I had to educate myself. During the early stages of creating the script and score, I joined the Dramatists’ Guild of NYC and also connected with theater agents and playwrights, all of whom graciously and generously gave me guidance and advice, which were instrumental in moving my project forward.

 

One thing I learned was in order to land a theatrical agent the play must have several productions. But how? Through the Dramatist Guild I discovered New Play contests. I submitted Princess K.I.M. The Musical to a New Play Festival at the Carol Crane Youth Theater, Ohio in 2012. Out of 180 plays, we made the top 5. My team and I traveled to Ohio for the Festival readings…and at the end of the day- we won! The prize- A Full production in Spring of 2013! We did it! Our first production.

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The Launch-

I then decided in order to gain more exposure I would produce Princess K.I.M. The Musical myself at a local theater.  I started a Kickstarter campaign, gathered a production team, rented a 450-seat theater and had open auditions. This time I asked my NH community and they said YES…YES to being actors, set builders, musicians, sound engineers and everything in between. Our October 2013 local debut was a success with all five shows selling out.

One benefit of producing our own show was the work-shopping factor. My team could now clearly see how we could improve the play. We got to work again tweaking the script and the music as well as creating a Junior version. At this point, word got out about Princess K.I.M. The Musical.  We licensed the Junior version show to the Interlakes Summer Theater in Meredith, NH (2014) www.interlakestheatre.com and a Full Version Production to the BeeKay Theater in Tehachpi, CA. (2015) (www.tctonstage.com)

At the same time, I was contacted by Artistic Director, Chase Leyner of Hoboken Children’s Theater  (http://www.hobokenchildrenstheater.com) who was looking for a 50 minute TYA version of Princess KIM. Chase and I and our teams put our heads together and the TYA version was born. Princess K.I.M. The Musical TYA had a successful 8-week run at the Hoboken Children’s Theater, New Jersey in 2015.

 

The stars aliened once again when an agent from Stagerights, after attending our California show, offered to represent Princess K.I.M. The Musical.

So- the path from Page to Stage has brought us here, with hopes that the road will continue with many productions across the nation.

…And to think, it all started with a teeny tiny lie I told in first grade.

 

dsc_8643-width-500Photo courtesy: Amato Center for the Arts, Milford, NH

 

.What a story! Kudos and many thanks, Maryann!

My takeaway: you can make your dreams into your reality.

What’s your takeaway?

To find out more about this author/illustrator/playwright/all-around-incredible-creative or to contact her:, please click here.

And for anyone interested in using this play for their theatre, please contact Maryann or click here  https://www.stagerights.com/allshows/princesskimjunior