Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Calling All Picture Book Writers!

Boot up your laptop! Sharpen your pencils! Then pour yourself a nice big mug of....coffee. It's time for NaPiBoWriWee, or National Picture Book Writing Week, and you're all invited! We'll be doing it and we hope you will, too!

Our fabulous friend, Paula Yoo, is the mastermind behind this. We'll be posting tips and story starters all week. We've copied the rules from her website below. Have fun and get ready, peeps!

In the spirit of National Novel Writing Month ("NaNoWriMo") where
people across the country try to write a complete novel in one month,
the fine folks at www.paulayoo.com have decided to start the first
ever National Picture Book Writing Week, affectionately nicknamed

The goal? To write 7 picture books in 7 days.

All NaPiBoWriWee participants should register on my website http://paulayoo.com
and comment on my blogs every day with your own progress.

For those of you who participate in the first annual NaPiBoWriWee, I
will select a winner at random on the 7th day - that winner will
receive an autographed copy of my latest picture book, "SHINING STAR:
THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY" (Lee & Low Books, 2009).

(For more info on the book, go here: http://www.leeandlow.com/books/368/hc/shining_star_the_anna_may_wong_story

The basic rules? Just write 7 complete and separate picture books in
one week. Each picture book must have a clear beginning, middle, and
end. There is no required minimum word count because picture book
lengths can vary from 50 words to 2000 words, depending on the genre.

I will be posting a blog every day for seven days with picture book
writing tips and encouragement and updates on my own progress, plus
links to The Three Silly Chicks who will also be providing similar
helpful blog tips.

For everyone who has a website or blog - you are encouraged to promote
NaPiBoWriWee on your blog/website/myspace/Facebook/Twitter. I only
request that you provide a link to my website - http://paulayoo.com.

And for those of you attending the national Society for Children's
Book Writers & Illustrators http://scbwi.org conference in August,
let me know and I'll arrange for an informal gathering during the
conference so we can meet in person and celebrate our first

For more info, contact me at paula@paulayoo.com.

To summarize, the basic rules:

1. Midnight May 1st to 11:59 p.m. May 7th: Write 7 separate and
complete picture books.
2. You are NOT allowed to write the same picture book in 7 variations.
Each book must be complete and separate.
3. No minimum word count. Instead, each book must have a clear
beginning, middle and end.
4. You are allowed to brainstorm and research book topics before May
5. You are NOT allowed to write a single word of your draft until
midnight May 1st.
6. There is NO minimum word count required. The fine folks of
NaPiBoWriWee require nothing but your word of honor. We will embrace
the Honor Code. If you say you have written 7 complete picture book
drafts in 7 days, we will believe you. Besides, why would you lie to
us? You're writing picture books for little children! Picture Book
Authors are nice, honest people who would never lie!
7. Please register on http://paulayoo.com in order to write comments
on Paula's blog every day with your progress and questions.
8. If you plan to blog about your NaPiBoWriWee journey, please include
a link to: http://paulayoo.com
9. A winner will be chosen from random of all the people who comment
from May 1-7 on http://paulayoo.com/. That winner will receive an
autographed copy of Paula Yoo's latest picture book biography,
"SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY" (Lee & Low Books 2009) by June
2009 when the book is released.
10. For those of you attending the national Society of Children Book
Writers & Illustrators conference in August, let
me know and I'll arrange for an informal gathering during the
conference so we can meet in person and celebrate our first

Good luck and I look forward to writing 7 picture books in 7 days with

Sunday, April 26, 2009

In the Coop with Jill Esbaum

We hope you've had as much fun as we've had celebrating National Poetry Month. As we sail into the final week of April, we thought we'd go out with a bang by inviting one of our favorite children's book authors to the coop. Jill Esbaum is the author of several fun books for kids, including Stink Soup, Estelle Takes a Bath, To the Big Top and Ste-e-e-e-eamboat A-Comin'! Now she's combined funny + poetry in Stanza, a delightful book about a tough street dog who secretly loves to pen poems. Illustrated by Jack E. Davis, Stanza is sure to please underdogs and poets of all stripes: secret poets, exuberant poets, reluctant poets... perhaps even poets-who-don't-know-it yet.

As if being a fabulous author weren't enough, Jill lives on a farm! And drives a tractor! And kisses piglets! (Don't believe us? Check it out!) Welcome to the coop, Jill!

How do you know when what you write is funny?

If it makes me laugh – and feels too clever to have come from my head. Unfortunately, after the first few drafts, lines that once had me ROFL feel about as fresh as a last summer’s roadkill.

Do you have any tips for writing funny books?

Only if I reveal it in secret code: Put the funniest end of the sentence at the word(s).

Has being funny ever gotten you into or out of trouble?

Not since junior high, when I underestimated the sensitivity of my phys ed teacher’s ears and learned that his sense of humor wasn’t compatible with my own.

What are some of your favorite funny books?

My current favorite is Mary Amato’s Chicken of the Family. I read it aloud at a picture book workshop last summer and had to keep stopping because my audience was hysterical.

If you could live in one of your books, which one would you choose?

Hmmm. I already live inside Stink Soup, so I think I’d like to visit Stanza’s alley. We could have some kickin’ poetry slams.

Who do you like more, The Marx Bros or Three Stooges?

Animaniacs, a hybrid of both.

What was your best Halloween costume?

My costumes must not have been too exciting, because I can only remember one: Jill. Like, of Jack and Jill fame? I know, real original. One of my friends was Jack, and we wore the costumes to walk in our small town’s Mother Goose-themed parade. Actually, we looked pretty good – down to the big silver buckles on our shoes. Too bad that, directly ahead of us, some farm girl was riding a cock horse to Banbury Cross.

What is your Dream Job for a Day?

I already have my dream job. But if I could try something else for a day, I’d like to give Editor a shot.

Clown V. Mime Deathmatch. Pick your winner.

Clown, definitely. Those shoes were made for stomping.

Funniest dead person you’d like to meet?

Ogden Nash. His poems have inspired me since I discovered “The Termite” in 4th grade:

Some primal termite knocked on wood

And tasted it, and found it good!

And that is why your Cousin May

Fell through the parlor floor today.

- Ogden Nash

Is there anything that you do on the sly (like Stanza) that we should know about?

Write novels. So far, I’ve done a spectacular job of keeping that a secret. Yeah, baby!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We've Got Our Eye on These Peeps

We chicks like to think that we can predict the future. For instance, we know it will snow again in the Chicagoland area this spring and we know that by the end of the April we will have eaten 25 leftover chocolate bunnies between us. We think we're downright spooky. So our readers should listen to us when we say that the following children's book authors and illustrators, who all have fewer than 4 books, will be BIG BIG BIG, and not from chocolate bunnies. No, these peeps will win BIG awards and make BIG speeches at ALA and possibly even ride a BIG float in the Macy's Day Parade.

We're talking BIG, and you heard it here first.

Antoinette Portis is Not a Stick or a Box or a Penguin. But she's a really cool author-illustrator.

Bob Shea
is all that and then some. Really.

Let's not forget the fabulous Jan Thomas, who wonders about things like, "What Will Fat Cat Sit On?" The strange thing is, we've been wondering that ourselves.

These are our current picks. Let us know who you think is a real up-and-comer!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Happy Hector

Happy Hector
Written and illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Candlewick Press

We're about to boss you around a little. First, put down whatever you're doing and cruise on over to your nearest independent bookstore. You there yet? Good. Now grab a cup of coffee and browse through the Tilly and Friends series by Polly Dunbar, but please, don't spill your coffee on these books. Honestly, how cute are those characters? One look at Hector the pig and we just want to eat him up with a side of hash browns!

In clear, precise language we learn on the very first page that Hector is sooo happy to be sitting on Tilly's lap.

"I am the happiest I have ever been!" says Hector.

When Tumpty, Doodle, Pru and Tiptoe (we heart those names!) want to play with Tilly, Hector tells them she's fine sitting there just with him, thank-you-very-much. But Hector's pals are insistent, and before he knows it everyone is sitting on Tilly's lap. (And that Tumpty has got some pudge on her!) Poor Hector is on the bottom of the pile.

"Now I am the unhappiest I have ever been," says Hector.

One by one, Hector's friends try to console him by asking him if he'd like his ears combed or if he'd like his nose painted blue. But all Hector wants is his dear Tilly, who is, as it turns out, making a present for Hector that is absolutely perfect for the sweet little pink porker.

Like Christopher Robin, Tilly is the ruler of her small kingdom, where she manages to solve all the animals' problems. This empowering, kid friendly book with its quirky characters is perfect to use with threes and fours at storytime. Don't forget to ask everyone to bring their favorite bear or pig!