JOSH FUNK: Will Write for Cookies Plus Giveaway

WILL WRITE FOR COOKIES

Plate of Cookies

INSIGHT – INFORMATION – INSPIRATION

FOR WRITERS

Photo courtesy: Carter Hasegawa

TODAY’S GUEST

JOSH FUNK

I’ve met today’s Will Write for Cookies guest in person several times – at the NESCBWI conference in Springfield, MA, at the NCTE convention in Baltimore, MD, and most recently, at the Toadstool Bookshop in Nashua, NH. It’s always so much fun…because, as you can tell from the books Josh writes, he’s a guy with a GREAT sense of humor! And this is the second time Josh has been here – the first time was about five years ago.

Josh Funk is a software engineer and the author of books like the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the ​It’s Not a Fairy Tale series, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series, the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series, Dear Dragon, Pirasaurs!, Albie Newton, and more. For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook at @joshfunkbooks.

ME: Woo-hoo! Howdy, Josh! So happy you were able to stop by on your busy book blog tour. Thank you so much for making time for us…and for the generous giveaway of a copy of BOOK #1 in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series. One lucky winner is going to be VERY HAPPY! I know you have a lot going on, and places to get to, so we will commence with the Q&A.

What is it like writing a picture book series?

JOSH: Hey, Vivian! Thanks so much for having me back again! It’s so interesting to look at these questions almost five years later to see how differently I’d answer them.

I didn’t originally intend for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast to become a series. But as soon as I saw Brendan Kearney’s first round of sketches of the world inside the refrigerator, I knew I needed to explore more.

In order to keep things fresh (see what I did there), I’ve tried to change up the genre with each successive one. The first book was a race. The Case of the Stinky Stench was a mystery. Mission Defrostable was an action/adventure spy thriller (more inspired by Indiana Jones than Mission Impossible, despite the title).

And book #4 in the series, Short & Sweet, which releases in a week is a sci-fi/comedy (think Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). In this one, to counter the fact that they’re going stale, Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast visit Professor Biscotti and her ‘de-spoiling ray’, which inadvertently shrinks them into toddlers causing them to run amuck throughout the fridge once again.

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

JOSH: Authors are required to do a lot of their own marketing and publicity.

I think I heard this in workshops and conferences, but it didn’t really sink in until I had sold my first book. However, you don’t have to wait until you sell a book to start networking.

One of the things I’ve tried very hard to do is connect with independent bookstores. Living in New Englander, I’m very fortunate that we have so many local indie bookshops. Because it takes so long to publish a picture book (usually about two years – or more – from the time you get an offer), I visited a lot of indies while I was waiting for my first book. I went to author events and got to know booksellers. And when it came time to mention that I had a book coming out, it was a great help to have friends at indie bookstores cheering me on.

And I keep supporting my indies. For the release of Short & Sweet, I’ve set up a preorder campaign with over 75 independent bookshops across the country. For every preorder from one of the stores listed at joshfunkbooks.com/indiebound, you’ll get a signed bookplate and exclusive collector’s cards.

#ShopLocal

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

JOSH: First, I take issue with the question because it implies that I’m no longer a child, which would be patently false. Depending on the day, I act either 5, 8 or 12 years old. But in all cases, I consider myself a permanent child.

If you’re asking what books I liked during, say, my years as an elementary school student, that I can answer.

I found Morris the Moose by B. Wiseman hilarious. I loved the Cam Jansen mysteries by David A. Adler. I devoured The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. And I was so excited about The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin I vividly remember calling my friend Rafi to see if he’d reached the part I was at so we could discuss the evolving mystery (this was before texting).

I vividly remember at least twice (with Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White in kindergarten and Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back by Shel Silverstein in third grade) that the teachers’ read-alouds were moving too slowly so I forced my parents to buy those books so I could read them (or have them read to me) faster.

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

JOSH: I love to write in my public library (although I haven’t been lately), sometimes in a study room, sometimes in the middle of the children’s room with headphones on. That’s really my favorite place to write.

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

JOSH: I’m a whenever the muse strikes type of writer. But I often get ideas in the middle of the night and end up writing on my phone in bed at 4am. If you don’t write those middle of the night brainstorms down, you WILL (or at least I will) forget them. I might remember I had an idea, but I won’t remember what it was. And that’s a terrible feeling.

(note that sometimes the middle of the night brainstorms are terrible and don’t even make sense, but sometimes they’re words like pirasaurs that eventually turn into books)

ME: Why do you write for children?

JOSH: Because I like to write. And I like to entertain people. And as I previously stated, I am a child. And children’s books are the best books. They’re the only ones I read. Because, really, what kind of person reads books for adults?

(Adults, maybe? I honestly don’t even know.)

I don’t read – or write – anything that has kissing in it. Eww.

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. 🙂

JOSH I have a whole ‘Guide to Writing Picture Books’ on the Resources for Writers section of my website. It’s pretty much everything I learned in my first five plus years or writing. Bon appétit!

YIPPEE! I was hoping you would mention the resources you have on your blog, Josh…it’s a must follow for every kidlit writer! Thank you so much for sharing your insights – and I know that many will be thrilled with the details you provided explaining how you kept the series fresh and…may I say…SWEET!

And speaking of SWEET, I think you’ve provided us with a VERY SWEET recipe!

JOSH: I wanted to recommend a biscotti in honor of Professor Biscotti (from Short & Sweet) but the truth is we’ve never made biscotti and can’t vouch for any (although VegNews does have a recipe for vegan biscotti). So instead, here’s a recipe we’ve tried for

SOFT & PILLOWY VEGAN SNICKERDOODLES (originally from Loving It Vegan)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup (112g) Vegan Butter
  • 2/3 cup (132g) White Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 and 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Milk (or other non-dairy milk) * Note: If you use a brand of vegan margarine that is very hard i.e. not a spread, then it’s possible that you’ll need to use a bit more non dairy milk, just use as little as possible.

For Rolling:

  • 3 Tbsp White Sugar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add the butter and sugar to an electric mixer and cream them together. Add in the vanilla and apple cider vinegar and mix in.
  2. Add in the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix in by hand (don’t use the electric mixer for this part) until it forms a crumbly dough.
  3. Then add in the soy milk so that it forms into a proper cookie dough (as pictured).
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
  5. Roll the cookie dough into balls and then roll the balls in the cinnamon and sugar mixture and place them onto a parchment lined baking tray. You can sprinkle more of the cinnamon sugar mixture on top of the balls before they go in the oven.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

Enjoy? We will definitely enjoy these! Thank you so much, Josh! This has been so much fun.

And readers, here’s the Book Blog Tour listing – Josh is spreading smiles everywhere!

Please don’t forget that the best gift we can give our favorite authors is to buy their books, review their books, tell friends about their books, and ask our libraries to purchase their books for the shelves. Why not pick at least one of those for SHORT AND SWEET? And then remember to leave a comment and share on social media to earn extra tickets in the giveaway hat for a chance to win a copy of LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST, the book that started this whole series!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Please stay safe and be well. I’m staying busy with last minute packing for my move!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: SHORT AND SWEET Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, dear friends. You are in for a treat this weekend, for sure! A VERY SWEET TREAT! I’ll give you a hint…think maple syrup.

That’s right! You are all so smart! One of my favorite authors, Josh Funk, has a BRAND-NEW SEQUEL to the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series…and we are TWO stops on his blog tour! Woo-hoo! And guess what? If you leave a comment, we’ll enter you in the giveaway of a copy of Josh’s FIRST book – the one that started this whole series! At the bottom of this post, you’ll find the blog tour line-up – check it out so that you don’t miss any of the stops.

SHORT AND SWEET

Written by Josh Funk

Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

Published by Sterling Children’s Books (September 1, 2020)

Ages: 3 and up

Themes: Teamwork, ingenuity, humor

Synopsis: From Amazon:

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are back with a twist: they’ve been transformed into small children. Now it’s a race against the clock to turn our favorite duo into grown-ups again!
 
Lady Pancake is aching; Sir French Toast’s looking pale. Could they be going . . . STALE? Maybe a visit to Professor Biscotti’s lab for her despoiling procedure will help. But instead of beautifying them, Biscotti accidentally transforms the two treats into toddlers! Frightened of the now gargantuan (to them) Baron von Waffle, the mini breakfast foods scamper off on an adventure in the fridge, visiting everywhere from the Bran Canyon to Limes Square. Will Baron von Waffle and Professor Biscotti figure out a way to turn them back into a grown Lady and Sir? Or will they stay short & sweet forever?

The book has already gotten starred reviews…I’m not surprised! Right before Covid hit, I was lucky enough to attend a bookstore event for Josh and I heard him read several of his books…they have heart and humor – a winning combination!

Here’s the adorable book trailer:

Why I love this book:

1, Did you watch the above trailer? Yup…that’s one of the reasons…what a clever idea for a story, don’t you think?

2. Josh has a knack for word play and humor…and the kids love it and so do the adults, even though they probably have to read the story over and over again.

3. Illustrator Brendan Kearney knows what kids love…and his pictures keep the reader engaged from the first page to the last.

RELATED ACTIVITIES

Definitely, without a doubt, you need to make French Toast and Pancakes with your kids! I think because of Covid, a lot more parents are probably inviting their kids to help in the kitchen. One of the best ways to encourage children to try new foods is to have them be part of the preparation. Also, there is so much learning that takes place when you cook – math, science, geography, literacy…the list goes on and on.

And then, how about making a fun paper plate pancake puppet.

Photo courtesy: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/paper-pancake-dolls

For detailed instructions, please go to the fabulous Activity Village website: https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/paper-pancake-dolls

And just so Sir French Toast fans don’t feel left out, you can easily adapt this craft and make a Sir French Toast puppet by trimming the paper plate and creating a square.

Here’s the graphic of all of the stops for Josh’s book blog tour:

And even though it doesn’t say anything about tomorrow’s Will Write for Cookies, I PROMISE you that Josh will be stopping by to visit…and you don’t want to miss his answers because he always shares important stuff.

There is also going to be a virtual book launch – I’ve been to a few recently and they are really lots of fun. Usually the author, and sometimes the illustrator, will talk about the writing/illustrating process and how they collaborated. It kind of cool because you don’t have to get dressed up and travel to a bookstore…but you do get to celebrate with the author and illustrator!

For more information and details, you can hop over to Josh’s website:  https://www.joshfunkbooks.com/tour

And last, but certainly not least, you can even pre-order a copy of this awesome book:

I think we are done. Good thing, because now I am hungry for some French Toast…one of my absolute favorite breakfasts that I only have when I go out to eat because at home I try to be good and eat oatmeal.

I hope everyone has a beautiful weekend…I’m in the last days before the movers come – so I’ll be packing boxes. Please make sure you leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway…and come back tomorrow to say howdy to Josh!

Perfect Picture Book Friday: GROWING SEASON Plus Giveaway

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, my friends. And I’ve got a wonderful book to review that fits perfectly with this season of spring.

GrowSCOVERJ

GROWING SEASON

Written and illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Published by Sterling House Books (2019)

Ages: 4-8

Themes: Friendship, gardening

Synopsis: From Amazon:

El and Jo are the shortest kids in class, and they’re inseparable. But what happens when Jo starts to grow? This sweet picture book explores the joys and challenges of friendship and growing up.
 
El and Jo are the smallest students in their class—and best friends, too, like peas in a pod. Even their names are short. But in springtime, something BIG happens: Jo starts growing like a weed, while El feels smaller every day. On the last day of school, their teacher asked every child to pick a plant to care for over the summer. All the other kids reach over El to grab their plant, and she has to take the very last one: a tiny, flowerless aster. At first, she’s disappointed. But as summer progresses, the aster begins to bloom—and so does El! Continue reading