An Interview + Book Review with Chana Stiefel this Perfect Picture Book Friday!

This Sunday we’re celebrating Father’s Day! So, for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I invited my friend, critique partner, and author of over 25 books for kids, Chana Stiefel, to join us and share some of her writing life and history behind her picture book, Daddy DepotChana Stiefel

Welcome, Chana!
When did you know you wanted to write for children?
Way back when I was at NYU Journalism School, studying Science, Health, & Environmental Reporting, I got an internship at Scholastic, which was down the block. I immediately became hooked on writing for kids. The internship developed into a job editing Scholastic’s Science World, a hands-on classroom magazine that makes science fun for kids. When I left Scholastic, I continued to freelance and started writing books for kids. Writing for children makes me see the world in a whole new light. I love exploring new topics for every new project.

What inspired the idea for your picture book, Daddy Depot?
One night, I was putting my daughter to bed. She was 7 at the time, and for reasons I can’t recall, she was very mad at her dad. She said, “Let’s return him to the Daddy store!” We started to laugh and made up a story about a girl who returns her father to the Daddy Depot. After bedtime, I ran downstairs and started to write. Daddy Depot was my first fiction picture book. The first drafts were over 1,000 words, had too many characters, and were written in terrible rhyme. But I persisted and learned the ropes of writing picture books. And eight years later, Daddy Depot was published by Feiwel & Friends.

Daddy Depot-Chana
Were there any surprises along the way from the point when you started writing your book to the moment it was published?
Yes! Daddy Depot was my learning book. It was also the book that landed me my first agent. And I was surprised at how long the process took—four years from contract to publication! Now I’ve come to understand that that can be typical in this industry. Live and learn!

Can you share something interesting or unexpected most people don’t know about you?
I love nature adventures. I have hiked on glaciers, watched Kilauea erupt into the sea, snorkeled in Molokini Crater, and ziplined over a cloud forest in Costa Rica. 

Title –  Daddy Depot

Author – Chana Stiefel

and illustrator – Andy Snair

Published by – Feiwel and Friends – 2017

Suitable for ages – 3-5

Topics – Dads and humor

Opening –
Lizzie loved her dad, but he was always watching football.
“Dad! Check out my new ballet twirls.”
“You’re a star, Lizzie… TOUCHDOWN!”

Amazon Review HERE – Come to Daddy Depot! The Dad Megastore! From Acrobats to Zookeepers, we have the perfect dad for you! Exchange your old dad for a brand-new one. . . TODAY!

Lizzie loves her dad, but he tells the same old jokes, falls asleep during storytime, and gets distracted by football while Lizzie does her ballet twirls. When she sees an ad for a store called Daddy Depot, she decides to check it out―and finds dads of all kinds! Will Lizzie find the perfect dad? Join her on this sweet and silly adventure that celebrates fathers with lots of love.

“This father and daughter are a perfect match!” —Publishers Weekly Review
“This colorful, humorous tale is sure to be a read-aloud hit.” —School Library Journal

Why I like this book— Although I never thought to trade in my dad for a different or better dad, I loved the humor in Chana’s picture book, Daddy Depot, and understood why Lizzie wanted to exchange her silly dad for a “perfect” one. Lizzie goes so far as to load her dad in a wagon while he’s sleeping and pull him over to the Daddy Depot in hopes of trading him in on a better dad. Like Lizzie, I’ve thought that certain things in my life weren’t as perfect as they could be and considered exchanging them for replacements only to discover, as Lizzie did, that what I already have is exactly, perfect for me.

Follow Chana @chanastiefel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Learn more at https://chanastiefel.com/.

Until next Friday.

 

 

 

Just Listen This Perfect Picture Book Friday

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday looks at the touching story, The Rabbit Listened. I dedicate this post to anyone who knows the struggle of an emotional challenge.  

Sometimes problems grow into overwhelming proportions to the point of blocking out all light and hope. There’s no way to see through them or look around them. Well-meaning family and friends reach out to make things better by offering up their own sad stories in an attempt to make your troubles appear small by comparison. They might even resort to acting silly, assuming a smile is a sign all troubles have been wiped away. In some cases, people offer generic suggestions before listening and taking the time to understand.

The worst advice I ever received came from someone who wasn’t equipped to help because they had never faced my situation.

“Let’s pretend it never happened and move on.”  

They moved on. I couldn’t.

Today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday choice shares the story of Taylor, a child with an overwhelming problem. Many animals arrive to offer assistance, but only one friend takes the time to understand what Taylor truly needs.

I hope you’ll sit back for a moment (5 minutes and 42 seconds) and listen to The Rabbit Listened.

Title –  The Rabbit Listened

Author and illustrator – Cori Doerrfeld

Published by – Dial Books for Young Readers – 2018

Suitable for ages – 3-5

Topics – Empathy, kindness, and friendship.

Opening – One day, Taylor decided to build something. Something new. Something special. Something Amazing. Taylor was so proud. But then, out of nowhere…

Amazon Review HERE. When something sad happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to act, and one by one they fail to offer comfort. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen . . . which is just what Taylor needs.

Why I like this book—I connected to this story on all levels. I have been in Taylor’s shoes, dealing with an issue too big to keep inside and too big to share. I have experienced the well-meaning, but wrong, kinds of help Taylor received. I have been the friend who wanted to make everything better. Most importantly, I know the incredible feeling of receiving the support the rabbit offered.

The greatest gift we can give is to find out what someone needs…it’s as simple as listening.

Learn more about Cori Doerrfeld HERE.

Until next Friday.

Selfless Acts of Kindness Come to Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Carmine the Crow has been a favorite picture book of mine for years. I find hope, not in the largest part of the story, but in the book’s heart-hugging ending. The story introduces us to an ordinary crow by the name of Carmine who, like other crows, lives in a tree and feels a strong attraction to objects with a glint or a glimmer.  However, Carmine’s extraordinary heart is revealed when he saves the life of a swan and is rewarded with a rare gift for his kindness.

Carmine the Crow

As is true for all literary characters, when given the gift of something astonishing or when placed in a stressful situation, their true nature is revealed by their actions, words, and choices. The gift the swan gives to Carmine is a small box filled with ancient stardust–powerful enough to make any wish come true.   Any wish.    Instead of using the powers of the stardust to grant his own impossible wishes, Carmine sacrifices his dreams to help others. He gives away pinch after pinch of the sparkling stardust until he has no more to offer, not even to himself.

Carmine the Crow-2

With all the compassion both words and illustrations can hold, Heidi Holder delivers an unforgettable ending as brilliant and promising as the magic stardust.

Title – Carmine The Crow

Written and illustrated by- Heidi Holder

Published by- Farrar, Straus and Giroux – 1992

Topics – Selfless acts of kindness, friendship, and dreams.

Opening – Carmine the Crow was a very old crow and he lived in a very old tree. He loved to collect shiny objects and had masses of glittery things in his attic: thimbles, beads, keys, anything with a glint of a glimmer. He was especially fond of his tinfoil collection.

Find the book, Carmine The Crow, on Amazon HERE.

Learn More about Heidi Holder HERE.

Interesting facts about crows HERE.

Until next Friday.

Let’s Be Honest this Perfect Picture Book Friday.

I finished my writing day and headed into the kitchen toward the whirring sound of the blender.

“If that’s a banana smoothie,” I asked my daughter, “I’ll take some… If you made enough.” 

“It’s not a smoothy,” she said.

I closed in on the blender and examined the milky, chunky, pulpy contents. “What IS that?”

She gave the contents another pulse. “I’m making homemade paper.” 

“I don’t think so,” I said. “I made paper years ago, AND I visited a paper mill when I was a kid. Trust me when I say you’re not making paper. Try adding more water. And by the way, are you using my special paper making screen?”

“No, it was too small, I needed something lots bigger.” She led me outside.

Gasp! “WHERE DID YOU GET THAT BIG SCREEN?”

“The living room window,” my daughter said, as if it were the obvious choice.

“Ingenious.” I forced a smile and reminded myself that she was exploring exciting, creative outlets while hoping I was winning a heap of “cool mom” points for staying calm. 

“So,” I asked, “what kind of paper did you shred to make the pulp?”

“My homework,” she replied.

And, this moment of honesty leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday review about a little boy named Ping who discovers that telling the truth brings great rewards.

Title – The Empty Pot

Written and illustrated by – Demi

Published by – Henry Holt – 1990

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  honesty, courage, and rewards

Opening – A long time ago in China, there was a boy named Ping who loved flowers. Anything he planted burst into bloom. Up came flowers, bushes, and even big fruit trees, as if by magic!

Amazon Review – The Empty Pot is Demi’s beloved picture book about an honest schoolboy

A long time ago in China, there was a boy named Ping who loved flowers. Anything he planted burst into bloom.

The Emperor loved flowers too. When it was time to choose an heir, he gave a flower seed to each child in the kingdom. “Whoever can show me their best in a year’s time,” he proclaimed, “shall succeed me to the throne!”

Ping plants his seed and tends it every day. But month after month passes, and nothing grows. When spring comes, Ping must go to the Emperor with nothing but an empty pot.

Demi’s exquisite art and beautifully simple text show how Ping’s embarrassing failure is turned triumphant in this satisfying tale of honesty rewarded.

Why do I like this book? I couldn’t be more impressed with Ping’s strength of character. When his efforts to grow a beautiful flower from the emperor’s seed lead to failure, Ping acts with honor. He gathers up his strength, stands before the emperor with his empty pot of soil, and confesses. One of the first lessons I taught my daughter was to accept full responsibility for her actions, which she clearly did while making paper the other day… And, instead of getting upset, I helped her make finer pulp and praised her amazing results. And the living room screen? It’s shot.

Learn about Demi HERE. (It’s quite impressive!) 

Until next Friday (or sooner when I share my second post for “The Monday Poems.”)