Perfect Picture Book Friday: SECRET SECRET AGENT GUY Plus PB Critique Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. I’m so excited to turn the spotlight on this new book written by the talented Kira Bigwood and illustrated by the wonderful Celia Krampien. And please make sure you leave a comment because Kira is providing an amazing opportunity for all of you writers…a Picture Book Critique Giveaway!

SECRET SECRET AGENT GUY

Written by Kira Bigwood

Illustrrated by Celia Krampien

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Bedtime, girl power, humor

Synopsis from Amazon:

Send little spies to sleep with this hilarious, tongue-in-cheek lullaby set to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

Dear Fellow Agents:

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to join Secret, Secret Agent Guy on his bedtime assignment, code name: Operation Lollipop. Equipped with night-vision goggles, a jetpack, and grappling hook, he is prepared for every eventuality…or is he?

Will this 007-year-old complete his covert quest, or will he be outsmarted by an adversary he never saw coming?

Why I love this book:

  1. Clever, clever, clever rhyme – a great read-aloud!
  2. Awesome illustrations that really give the reader a sense of movement and drama!
  3. Filled with heart and humor – always my favorite combination for a picture book!

This book has received STARRED reviews:

From School Library Journal: VERDICT This is a bull’s-eye for imaginative children, and the singalong text invites participation at all ages.

From Kirkus: Absolutely charming—no subterfuge about that.

RELATED ACTIVITIES:

Photo courtesy: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/spy-activities-for-kids/

Here’s a link to a bunch of awesome spy-related activities for your little secret agents: https://www.whatdowedoallday.com/spy-activities-for-kids/

Please make sure you leave a comment – maybe you can tell us if you ever played secret agent when you were a kid. We’ll be picking one name by Random.org to win the Picture Book Manuscript Critique that Kira is donating as a super giveaway! And don’t forget that the best way to thank an author for writing a book that you love is to buy the book, review the book, tell friends about the book, and ask your local library to purchase copies for their collection.

I hope you all have a beautiful weekend.

Leah Henderson: Will Write for Cookies PLUS Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INSPIRATION – INFORMATION

FOR WRITERS

TODAY’S GUEST

hnderson

LEAH HENDERSON

As many of you know, I’ve stepped back a bit from the number of blogs I post. Last year I had three or four Fridays and Saturdays filled each month. This year, I’m only doing one or at most, two, Will Write for Cookies post each month and a few Perfect Picture Book Fridays. Which makes each one all the more special.

Special…now that is a perfect word to describe today’s guest. I met Leah at a writing retreat in Georgia and I fell in love immediately with her passion for writing and her sincere, honest, and compassionate approach to life. So when I found out her award-winning middle grade novel, ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, was coming out in paperback on June 12th, I knew I had to ask her if she would stop by for a Q&A. And she said YES!

Leah’s novel One Shadow on the Wall, is an Africana Children’s Book Award notable book and a Bank Street “Best Book of 2017” starred for outstanding merit. Her short story “Warning: Color May Fade” is part of the YA anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America and her debut picture book is entitled Mamie on the Mound. Leah mentors at-risk teens, is an avid traveler, and her volunteer work has roots in Mali, West Africa. She attended Callaloo Writing Workshop at Oxford University, is on Highlights Foundation faculty, and volunteers with Kweli Journal and We Need Diverse Books. She received her MFA from Spalding University and lives in Washington, D.C.

You can find her on Twitter @LeahsMark or at her website: leahhendersonbooks.com.

But today, fortunately, you can find her right here!!!!

And if you leave a comment, thanks to our generous guest, you’ll be entered into the giveaway of a brand new paperback copy of ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL.

ME: Hello Leah. Thank you so much for stopping by to chat. I know everyone is excited to find out more about you.

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

LEAH: Hi all! I’m excited to be here!

One of the books I always passed on my family’s sunroom coffee table was THE PEOPLE COULD FLY by Virginia Hamilton with illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon. And from time to time one of my parents and I would open it just to read a few pages. That was a definite comfort book, and still is a reminder of home. I also loved Corduroy by Don Freeman because it was the first time I saw a black girl like me with her mom as part of an everyday adventure. The Bernstein Bear books were also big in my house because they showed a family doing so much together, just like mine always did.

people could fly

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

LEAH: I am still working on this, but I wish I had known to be kinder to myself and my writing, and to trust that even if I don’t figure something out right away that I will not give up until I do. Over the years, I’ve added a lot more stress to my writing hours than I needed to. I’m not saying I don’t still stress about every little thing, but now when I tell myself to take a couple breaths I actually try to.

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

LEAH: So, I write all over the place, inside, outside—on rooftops, in gardens, on planes, and in Bedouin tents, wherever inspiration strikes (or wherever I am when I have to get something done). Though my ideal place is anywhere my dog is curled nearby. I usually start a story in one of my favorite notebooks with one of my favorite pens. Then I move to my laptop or desktop depending where I am.

real laptop

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

LEAH: Again, I’ve learned I need to be flexible if I’m ever going to get anything done. But years ago when I started to take my writing more seriously I was shocked to find that the early morning hours were a magical time for me (basically I worked in a nightclub and all my friends were asleep then.

I have always been a night owl and get a lot done under the cover of night, but purely by accident I found that the early morning hours were the best time for me to write new scenes. I’ve never been too fond of morning unless I’ve already been up half the night. But one morning I popped up during the early stages of a new story and realized my characters were buzzing to get on the page when the sun had still barely pushed its way into the sky. Now, when writing a new draft I get excited to see how the ideas have been playing in my head all night.

working outside

ME: Why do you write for children?

LEAH: Because children have the most open hearts and the most expansive minds!

ME: Leah, if you have any thoughts or advice for aspiring writers, please share.

LEAH: My advice to aspiring writers is the same advice I give to myself now: Be kind to yourself and your writing. Don’t cringe at your mistakes. Sometimes the most magical things come from these stumbles—these true moments of learning. But we have to be open to seeing them. So keep your eyes open to everything! And write for you . . .

one shadow cover

Thank you so much for having me, Vivian!

ME: The pleasure is mine, Leah…and I know that you aren’t done yet. I took a peek at the treat recipe and it looks amazing!

LEAH: Not exactly cookies, but this is a common treat you’ll see at outdoor street vendors and it’s also a wonderful snack during Ramadan and other occasions.

                                                                                       donuts         Photo: Eat Your World

Senegalese Donuts (Beignets)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

3 cups of flour

1 cup of sugar

½ cup of milk

4 eggs

2 oranges

1 tbsp of baking powder

½ tbsp of butter (melted)

Optional:

Powdered sugar

Coconut flakes

Raisins

Nutmeg

Instructions:

  1. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, and melted butter into a bowl
  2. Add squeezed orange juice and milk
  3. Mix together
  4. Add zest of orange for flavor
  5. Add vegetable oil
  6. Continue to mix until soft, not too sticky
  7. Add raisins (optional) and mix
  8. Add a bit more orange zest and mix
  9. Sprinkle a little more vegetable oil on top
  10. Add a bit of coconut (optional)
  11. Then let rest for 2-3 hours. Best results: let sit overnight
  12. Sprinkle a bit of nutmeg on top (optional)
  13. Mix a little more
  14. Create little balls and drop them into a pan of hot vegetable oil

*put a little vegetable oil on your hands for stickiness.

  1. Flip the donuts as they cook
  2. Let them fry for 10 mins or until golden brown
  3. Remove from pan and place on paper towel to absorb extra oil
  4. Sprinkle with powdered sugar

And enjoy!!!

Oh my goodness…thank you, Leah. You brought me right back on a Saturday morning with my grandmother who used to bake a lot. I’d sneak downstairs while everyone slept in, and help her. Fried doughnuts were one of her specialties. I will definitely have to try these!

Dear readers, thank you so much for spending your precious time here with us. Please don’t forget the the greatest gifts you can give your favorite authors is to buy their books, review their books, and tell others about their books. Make sure you leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway.

Have a safe and happy weekend! I’ll be leaving for a 10-day trip to Chicago on Wednesday to visit family…but I hope to be able to connect with some Chicago area writer friends as well.