I’m Back! And what kept me too busy to blog?

I apologize for not keeping up with my Friday picture book reviews. Three weeks have slipped by, and yes, I have a good reason for my absence.

I felt the time had come to give my future as a picture book writer a closer look.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ve probably heard me praise my collection of little notebooks. In fact, I am so fond of little notebooks that my daughter gives them to me for presents on my birthdays and holidays. One of my notebooks holds ideas for future picture books topics. When an idea for a clever title pops into my head, I write it down because a clever title can often spur a clever story.  I make note of amazing people I have long admired or recently heard about whose accomplishments I find admirable. And I take notes about astonishing historical events I would have loved to read about when I was a school girl.

Hmmm. I thought to myself. It looks like I have an interest in writing nonfiction. (Visualize a light bulb flickering on above my head.)

Questions followed.

Can a fiction-loving picture book writer switch over to nonfiction? Where do I find my sources? How many primary and secondary sources do I need? Which sources are respected over others? How do I find an expert in the field who can verify my facts? How do agents and editors prefer to see research organized? What if I can’t find enough information about the subject? What if I find so much information I stagger under the load? What do I include in my author notes? What information goes in the back matter? Should I include a glossary of terms? How long is too long for a nonfiction picture book manuscript? Can back matter get too lengthy? Where do I start?

Baffled by many questions, I decided to take an intensive online course in writing nonfiction picture books.

Flash forward.

Research pile

My notes from the class as well as my research notes on my topic fill three, fat, three-ring binders. More notes are piled on the sofa, jotted in numerous notebooks (of course), stuffed in the pages of library books, and filed on my computer. Additionally, my loving husband took a few days off from work to travel with me for my research. (What a great guy!) My manuscript is written, and I’m happy to report that I’m moving through the revision process with a giddy heart. And what about those marvelous morsels of information I discovered that don’t move my story forward but have EVERYTHING to do with my topic? Turns out I can include some of them in my back matter. Yay!

I’m excited that I embarked on my nonfiction picture book writing journey. What surprised me most is how much I am enjoying the research process.

Come next Friday, I’ll be ready to post picture books reviews once again.

See you then!

Spirited, dream-seeking women are the focus of today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF review

Back when I was in high school taking classes to decide what to be when I grew up, women were going after careers as doctors, firefighters, attorneys, journalists, and much more. Unfortunately, my mother kept a dated attitude about which occupations were suited to men and which were suited for women–more specifically me.

When my high school interest in interior decorating led me into the Architectural Design course (where I achieved an A. Gotta blow my horn a little.) My mother, fearing I might choose to become an architect, put her foot down. She said architecture was a male-dominated field, and she wouldn’t pay the college tuition if I pursued it.

Wait. What? Male-dominated? There are going to be lots of men?

My mother’s problem became a perk.

Moving on. My next big interest was Psychology. One class led to two, and when two looked like it would turn into three (Can anyone see where this is going?), my mother said, “If you become a psychologist, your patients will be crazy people in search of advice. I won’t have it. If you want to pursue this field in college, I won’t pay the tuition.”

Without thinking, my teenage mouth spurted, “If you reconsider and let me become a psychologist, I’ll offer you free therapy in your old age.”

Moving on . . . (with a sore bottom.)

So there I was, envious of my older sister who chose the career she wanted and headed to college to study law without the parental flack I always received.

Ummm . . . Isn’t the field of law dominated by men?

My admiration for women who let nothing stand in the way of their dreams brings me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review. Please welcome Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt (whose mothers I would have loved to meet).

Title – Amelia And Eleanor Go For A Ride

Written by – Pam Munoz Ryan

Illustrated by – Brian Selznick

Published by – Scholastic Press – 1999

Topics – Following dreams and determination

Opening – Amelia and Eleanor were birds of a feather. Eleanor was outspoken and determined.

So was Amelia.

Amelia was daring and liked to try things other women wouldn’t even consider.

So when Eleanor discovered that her friend Amelia was coming to town to give a speech, she naturally said, “Bring your husband and come to dinner at my house! You can even sleep over.”

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE.  Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt were birds of a feather. Not only were they two of the most admired and respected women of all time, they were also good friends. Illuminated here for the first time in picture book form is the true story of a thrilling night when they made history together!

On a brisk and cloudless evening in April 1933, Amelia and Eleanor did the unprecedented: They stole away from a White House dinner, commandeered an Eastern Air Transport jet, and took off on a glorious adventure–while still dressed in their glamorous evening gowns!

This picture book tour de force celebrates the pioneering spirit of two friends whose passion for life gave them the courage to defy convention in the name of fulfillment, conviction, and fun. Soaring text, inspired by the known facts of this event, and breathtaking drawings ask readers to dream dreams as big as Amelia and Eleanor’s.

Why do I like this book? I admire those with an adventurous spirit, and this book shows not one but two such spirited women going after their dreams full throttle. Amelia, without a care what people think about woman piloting planes, fearlessly takes to the skies to make her dream come true. And Eleanor, disregarding other’s opinions that women shouldn’t drive cars, loves the feeling of independence a car provides, has a new car, and can’t wait to get behind the wheel to feel the wind whoosh through her hair. The night Amelia comes to the White House for dinner is beyond magical for these two spirited friends.

Do you remember a dream you wanted more than anything? Did something stand in your way? Did you reach it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Jane Goodall’s Book, Rickie & Henri

My mother was a compassionate woman who instilled in me her deep love and appreciation for nature. Whether we were hiking through the woods that surrounded our house, looking for first signs of spring, or whether we were rescuing a hurt animal, nature played a part in my life from my very youngest years on. Beyond my mother’s caring heart, what stayed with me over the years was the relationships she developed with animals.

Upon seeing a deer grazing in her prized garden at the same time each day, my mother didn’t seek ways to discourage the deer from visiting and nibbling her tender plants. She set out to tame that deer. Some of her friends from the Garden Club thought she was crazy not to buy deer repellant and save her precious plants. Instead, my mother saw this as an opportunity to befriend a wild animal.

She cut an apple into quarters and set out the pieces at the edge of the garden and watched and waited thirty feet away. The deer came out of the woods, sniffed the apples, and ate them. My mom continued feeding the deer this way for a week. The second week, she stood twenty feet away, always moving closer and closer to where the deer ate. After two months, my mother stood beside the apple pieces as the deer ate. The following week, the apple pieces were offered on my mother’s open palm. The deer accepted the apples and allowed my mother to stroke her hand down his neck. The gift of this unusual friendship took time and great patience and was clearly a memorable gift my mother gave to herself.

Friendships between humans and wild animals and friendships between different animal species are rare and wonderful, and that is what today’s picture book review is about.

Title – Rickie & Henri

Written by  – Jane Goodall

Illustrated by – Alan Marks

Published by – Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd. 2017

Suitable for ages – 5-8

Theme – survival, trust, friendship

Opening – Rickie was born in the rain forest of Central Africa.

For the first two years, she lived with her mother and the other chimpanzees of the community. Her mother was the center of Rickie’s world. She carried her from place to place; she comforted her when hse was hurting or frightened. Every hour or so–more often if she wanted–Rickie could drink the good warm milk from her mother’s breasts.

Perhaps she had an older brother or sister; perhaps her grandmother was alive. We shall never know.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE. Rickie the chimpanzee loved living with her mother in the rain forests of Central Africa, warm and safe. Until the day the hunters came and took Rickie away to sell at a Congolese market. Luckily, she was rescued by a kind man who adopted Rickie and cared for her. Best of all, he provided an unexpected friend in his dog, Henri. This true story of friendship is heart-warmingly brought to life by renowned scientist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Why do I like this book? The story, Rickie and Henri, was written from a truly loving heart. Jane Goodall skillfully places the reader in the emotional reality of a chimpanzee that has witnessed her mother’s death and is taken from the only life and home she knows. The journey is filled with challenges to overcome, and Rickie soon learns to love and trust again when she is taken in by a compassionate man and his dog, Henri, who eventually becomes Rickie’s dearest friend. The story, teamed with the tender illustrations of the very gifted artist, Alan Marks, will tug at your heart. Every emotion Ricki feels is on the page for the reader to feel, too. I found this book impossible to put down, and impossible to leave on the shelf without buying.

Learn more about Jane Goodall HERE.

Learn more about Alan Marks HERE.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at – The Inventor’s Secret

I can’t count the times my daughter asks to do an art project with me or wants to learn a new instrument like the piano, violin, or guitar. It doesn’t take long before she pushes the project away or abandons the instrument only to say, “I’ll never get good at this!” Or… “You’re so much better at this than I am.” Followed by… “What’s the point of trying?”

I make two cups of hot cocoa, a bowl of buttery popcorn, give her hugs, and plenty of encouragement. Then I tell her stories from my childhood.

“When I was a child, I sat with my mother at the kitchen table to work on an art project and felt discouraged because my mother, a scientific illustrator for the Field Museum in Chicago, clearly had more talent than I did. When I played the piano and made mistakes, my mother would sit beside me and play the piece so I could hear the song properly and get the melody in my ear. Mom was an accomplished pianist, so naturally the difference in our playing was there for anyone listening to hear. I didn’t see the point in continuing. When I wanted to quit piano lessons, my mom agreed and told me I was never to touch the piano again.

Never.

Talk about the cookie jar on the top shelf. Three days passed. Then, I couldn’t take it. Suddenly, I wanted to play the piano so much I asked my mom to please reinstate my lessons. Secretly, Mom knew I would cave in and had never called my piano teacher to cancel lessons. I practiced every day and eventually improved and enjoyed playing the piano for my own pleasure. My point is that you can’t expect to have professional results the first time you try something.” I said to my daughter. “Everything in this world worth having takes time, dedication, love, and commitment.”

This leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF)

Title – The Inventor’s Secret – What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford (click here to view on Amazon.)

Written by – Suzanne Slade

*Illustrated by – Jennifer Black Reinhardt

*Published by – Charlesbridge – 2015

*Suitable for ages – * NSTA 2016 Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12 *

*Topics/theme  determination

*Opening – Not so long ago the world was a little slower. A little simpler. And a whole lot quieter. No airplanes roaring overhead. No cars rumbling down roads. No phones ringing in pockets. Then things began to change–because of two curious boys, Thomas and Henry. And one secret.

Jacket copy  – Thomas was curious about electricity–invisible energy that flowed and stopped, sizzled and popped.

Henry was curious about engines–machines that chugged and purred, hiccupped and whirred.

The boys’ curiosity got them in a heap of trouble, but later led to some to the greatest inventions of all time!

When Thomas Edison grew up, he invented the electric pen, phonograph, light bulb, and more. Henry Ford dreamed of inventing a car–a road engine that hardworking families could afford. But year after year, Henry’s engine designs were a flop, while the whole country was crazy about Thomas’s inventions.

Henry was frustrated. He wanted to give up! And he kept wondering… What’s Thomas’s secret!

Amazon Review – Thomas Edison and Henry Ford started off as insatiably curious tinkerers. That curiosity led them to become inventors–with very different results. As Edison invented hit after commercial hit, gaining fame and fortune, Henry struggled to make a single invention (an affordable car) work. Witnessing Thomas’s glorious career from afar, a frustrated Henry wondered about the secret to his success.

This little-known story is a fresh, kid-friendly way to show how Thomas Edison and Henry Ford grew up to be the most famous inventors in the world–and best friends, too.

Why do I like this book? Although the retelling of the experiments, failures and successes take place around 100 years ago, the secret to what it takes to succeed is timeless and will surely inspire all who read this book, children and grownups alike. The illustrations are created with a happy heart of one of my favorite illustrators, Jennifer Black Reinhardt. Her artwork is brimming with details and colors children will enjoy looking at again and again.

Author – Visit Suzanne Slade here.

Illustrator – Visit Jennifer Black Reinhardt here.

PPBF Looks at ‘Herbert – The True Story Of A Brave Sea Dog’

PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) looks at Herbert The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog.

Anyone who has ever experienced grief when their pet got lost will appreciate the loyalty of one little boy and his deep belief that his dog will come home to him again.

I recall vividly the summer when my cat disappeared for several days. My parents were convinced it was Misha’s time, and he had gone off to die. Like Tim, in the picture book I am sharing today, I kept believing Misha was alive. During his absence, I wondered if Misha worried he’d never find his way home again. Did he miss me as much as I missed him? Was he hurt and unable to walk? I never knew the struggles Misha endured until his return. A hawk had tried to carry our cat away and in the struggle, broke a talon off in Misha’s back. Yes, my beautiful cat survived and lived for many more years.

For anyone who has experienced the sheer joy when a happy bundle of fur returns home, or can imagine such a joy, you will cherish Herbert – The True Story of a Brave Dog. 

Title – Herbert – The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog

Written and illustrated by- Robyn Belton

Published by- Candlewick Press – First U.S. edition 2010

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – Friendship, Loyalty, Hope, Faith, and Love

Opening – Herbert was a small dog who lived in Nelson, New Zealand, by the sea. Everybody liked Herbert, but the person who loved him most was Tim.

Jacket Flap  –  Herbert was a small dog who lived by the sea. Everybody loved him, but the person who loved him best of all was Tim. One fine day, Herbert set off on a boat with Tim’s father. And so began the biggest adventure of Herbert’s life. This heartwarming tale, written and illustrated by Robyn Belton, tells the remarkable true story of a young boy’s beloved dog and his real life adventure at sea.

Synopsis from Amazon – A boy never gives up hope when his little dog vanishes at sea in this suspenseful and heartwarming true-life adventure.

Why do I like this book? Robyn Belton tells a touching story that pulled at my heart. When Herbert fell overboard and wasn’t noticed missing until hours later, due to  bad conditions at sea, I welled up inside with sadness for Tim and for Herbert who would have a hard struggle ahead of him. I admired Tim’s devotion for his dog when, during their search out at sea, everyone gave up except him, and in looking one more time, a cherished friend and pet was found after enduring 30 hours in the sea. Robyn Belton’s sensitive watercolors offer the perfect feeling to this treasured tale. The end papers of this beautiful book offer a strong addition to the book in that they include photographs of Tim and Herbert, the medal Herbert was awarded, maps, and letters from people whose hearts were touched when they read of this incident in the newspaper. This isn’t a picture book I was content to check out of my library–this is a picture book I purchased because its rich writing and beautiful illustrations earned it a place in my home.

An interview with Robyn Belton  about this story can be viewed here.