Monthly Archives: May 2016

Learn More About Joyce Wan: Exclusive Interview

Hello, Joyce, thank you for joining me for an interview to talk about what’s new for you in 2016!

Thank YOU, Dylan, for being such a great champion of children’s books and their creators. It’s my pleasure to share!

Tell us a little bit about the new Peep and Egg series you’re doing with Laura Gehl- we’ve seen one, we know another is on the way in 2016, and there are two more after that, correct?

Peep and Egg are characters in a funny new picture book series for toddlers in which a reluctant chick overcomes her fears. What initially started as a two-book project became a four-book project over the course of working on the first two books and are being published by the amazing team at FSG, Macmillan. “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Hatching” was released in February. “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating” will be released in August. Then there will be a “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Taking a Bath” which I just completed that will be out Fall of 2017 and a “Peep and Egg: I’m Not Eating That” which will be released Winter 2018.


The two characters are a joy to draw because they are such opposites personality-wise, and so expressive in their dialogue. The books are also written almost completely in dialogue making them really fun read-alouds.

Tell us a little bit more about the book you illustrated, Pug Meets Pig.

“Pug Meets Pig” is a book about embracing change, being kind to others, and finding friends in unlikely places. The book was written by debut author Sue Gallion who won the 2013 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award at the SCBWI-LA conference for this manuscript and it will be released in September 2016 by the fabulous team at Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster.

Do you prefer writing and illustrating your own books, or do you prefer illustrating other people’s books as well?

I feel like they are so different from each other that I can’t really compare. There is more freedom with writing and illustrating your own books, which I enjoy, as it is completely your own vision. However, illustrating other people’s manuscripts has helped me grow as an illustrator because I end up drawing things that I might not normally draw if I wrote the book myself so I feel like that has helped me become a more versatile illustrator. I love doing both and I’m so grateful to be busy with both.
What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I don’t grasp my pencil “correctly” which can occasionally cause hand cramps during intense drawing sessions but it’s never stopped me from doing what I love!

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Working at a creative start-up of some sort. I love the energy and excitement of creating and launching something new.
How did your career as an author/illustrator start?

I designed a greeting card when I was 6 years old for a Boston city-wide greeting card design contest. The design won first place and was subsequently sold through a major department store chain. Because of the contest, I even got to meet the governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, and had my picture in the Boston Globe. As you can imagine, this experience had a major impact on me as a young child and it encouraged me to keep drawing. I grew up on welfare in low-income housing in inner-city Boston for a greater part of my youth. Coming from an immigrant family with limited means, art was not necessarily encouraged – not as a means to make a living anyway. I went on to study architecture at Barnard College thinking it was the “practical” thing to do for someone who was interested in the arts. However, after working in the field of architecture for a couple years I realized it was not very fulfilling – in fact, I hated it. With no formal art education other than a college figure drawing class and a huge leap of faith, I started my design studio Wanart in 2003 with an initial focus on designing and manufacturing my own greeting card line. When I first started Wanart, I was working at a 9am-6pm job at an architectural firm. I would spend the night/early morning hours on my own business with only a few hours of sleep in between the two “jobs”.  I did this for two years before I quit my full time job to pursue my own business full-time. I spent the early years taking lots of continuing education classes, taking odd jobs here and there when I needed money, reading lots of marketing books, trying many different things, making many mistakes, teaching myself design programs like Photoshop and Illustrator, spending lots of money (or, I like to call it, investing in myself), and drawing—lots of drawing, relying on nothing but hope and passion to keep me going most of the time. I continually put myself out there and exhibited my products at trade shows all over the country with the help of a very supportive husband. Between the trial and error (and tears!) were some small successes, and then a major break came when I met the art director from my first publisher, Blue Apple Books, in 2008 at the New York International Gift Show. The art director told me they had seen my cards in stores, had been following my work, and even had some of my cards in their office. This led to the publication of my first book Greetings from Kiwi and Pear which was based on one of my best-selling greeting card lines. Since then I’ve had 12 more books published with several more under contract in the next few years. I’ve worked /working with with Cartwheel/Scholastic, PSS!/Penguin, Beach Lane Books/S&S, & FSG/Macmillan. It is a dream come true.

YouAreMyPumpkin-cover.jpgWhat can readers expect from you in the future?

I have two new holiday-themed board books coming out later this year with Cartwheel/Scholastic that I’m excited about that are inspired by my best-selling “You Are My Cupcake” called “You Are My Pumpkin” (June 2016) and “You are My Merry Little Christmas” (Sept. 2016).

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

I love connecting with folks online!
Twitter: @wanart

Instagram: @wanartstudio
Thank you, Joyce, for joining me here!

What’s New with Daniel Miyares: Exclusive Interview

Hello, Daniel, thank you for joining me for an interview to talk about what’s new for you in 2016!

Dylan! Thank YOU for having me. I truly appreciate all you do for the young readers. You’re amazing.

Tell us a little bit about Bring Me a Rock!

Ok, So Bring Me a Rock! is a story about a megalomaniac insect king that has a grand plan. He commands all of his loyal buggy subjects to “BRING ME A ROCK!” With them he is going to build a throne fit for a king. When his not-so-grand plan literally begins to fall apart, the smallest and unlikeliest hero steps up to save the day. The real kicker is that once the calamity is sorted out the now appreciative king offers the tiny hero anything his heart desires. He has a huge decision to make.




I’m really excited to share this one. It releases June, 7th from the fantastic team at Simon & Schuster, Books for Young Readers.

 Tell us a little bit more about the book you just did with Kwame Alexander, Surf’s Up!

Surf’s Up! has been a wild ride. It’s about two frog friends on their way to the beach. Dude wants to hit the waves, but all Bro wants to do is hit the books. Paradigms are shifted and roles are reversed as Dude learns just how exciting reading can be, especially when you let your imagination do its thing.

Kwame’s fast paced dialogue has so much personality. It’s really difficult not to get caught up in it. I recommend a group read aloud with this one. I believe Matthew Winner called it, “Reader’s Theatre.”

I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Kwame and the North South team.


Do you prefer writing and illustrating your own books, or do you prefer illustrating other people’s books as well?

My goal is to tell the most meaningful stories for children that I can. Creatively I think it’s important for me to keep all ways of working on the table. I have a hard time saying one way of doing it is better than the other. It’s extremely satisfying to dream up an idea for a picture book and walk it out start to finish. There’s a continuity to it that’s hard to replicate. On the other hand when I get to work on someone else’s story I’m consistently surprised by the final product. If I’m honest, starting with an existing text is usually an internal wrestling match for me. Through that process I almost always learn something new about how I tell stories, or why I tell stories. This is critical for me because I want to keep growing and evolving.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

My favorite movie of all time is A River Runs Through It. I try not to watch it if I can help it, because by the end I’m a sobbing mess. Maybe its because I grew up with an older brother? I don’t know.

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Usually when asked what I’d be doing if I wasn’t a professional artist, I just say I’d be an unprofessional one. Also, I love teaching. That would be a career path I’d definitely like to try.
How did your career as an author/illustrator start?

A good friend introduced me to my artist reps at Studio Goodwin Sturges. They saw potential in what I was doing, but I didn’t have a portfolio that was right for the children’s book market yet. I spent time with them building a new body of work that felt right. In the process of finding my visual voice I found a creative family. My first project was Waking Up is Hard to Do written by the one and only Neil Sedaka. When I saw Neil holding our book up on the Today show with Kathie Lee and Hoda, I thought, dear lord what have I gotten myself into.


What can readers expect from you in the future?

More books! Currently I’m working on a new one with Simon & Schuster based on the #thatneighborkid series I’ve been doing on Instagram (@danielmiyaresdoodles)

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Yeah, thank you for supporting picture books and the people that make them. It’s truly an honor to get to share my stories.

Thank you, Daniel, for joining me here!

Growing Friends: A Review of Sophie’s Squash Go to School

In my area, most schools have already let out for the summer. The final bell has tolled and students are ready to go on vacation, plunge into swimming pools, and enjoy all of the other activities that summer brings. But, we all know how time flies, and before long, the bell will toll again- this time, welcoming students back to school. Some will be entering school for the first time.

Readers first had the opportunity to meet Sophie and her squash in Sophie’s Squash, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. If you haven’t read this title, you’ll want to fix that quickly!


Now, Sophie is back. Her squash seeds produced two new friends, Bonnie and Baxter. As surely as the seasons changed, Sophie must now head off to school for the first time. And before she sets foot in the door, she already has determined one thing: she doesn’t need anymore friends.

That doesn’t stop her classmates from trying. One friend in particular, Steven, won’t give up. His persistence isn’t quite enough for Sophie, however.

As summer turns to fall, and fall turns to winter, it’s time for Sophie’s squash to be tucked into bed and Sophie acknowledges it might be time for her to make new friends- slowly, but surely.

An accident, a brave move by Steven, and class collaboration all come together to tie this story together quite nicely. The book leaves us satisfied, with a perfect message about being patient- with ourselves, and with our friends.

When you’re making your lesson plans and culling great books to read at the beginning of the year, you’ll want to make sure both Sophie’s Squash, and Sophie’s Squash Go To School are on your list. Pat Zietlow Miller has crafted a story that covers a wide array of emotions as young children begin school, but brings them a message of assurance that when you leave yourself room to grow, many great things can bloom.

Sophie’s Squash Go To School publishes from Random House on 06/28/16.


Good Night Baddies Premieres Today! Interview with Deborah Underwood

Hello, Deborah, thanks for joining me here to talk about what’s new with you!

Thanks so much for having me, Dylan!

Bella and Me Salina fix deborahU.jpeg

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Good Night Baddies.

Baddies cvr.jpeg

Good Night, Baddies tells the story of what happens each night when the “bad” fairy tale characters—witches, wolves, giants, dragons, trolls, etc.—clock out of their baddie work and go home to their baddie castle. They chat about their days, have a lovely dinner together, change into their pajamas, brush their teeth (or fangs), read bedtime stories, and tuck each other in. Who knew?

Check out the trailer here!

Baddies 9.jpeg

What was your reaction when you first saw the illustrations that Juli Kangas did?

As a writer, I should be able to describe my feelings when I saw Juli’s first sample illustration, but I can’t. I think I gasped. It was as if she’d taken my words and transformed them, making them into something gorgeous and rich and adding a tremendous amount of depth at the same time. It was a feeling of, “That was exactly what I was trying to say, but I didn’t even realize I’d been trying to say it.” It couldn’t have been more perfect. And her finished art has absolutely lived up to that first impression.

Did I read somewhere that you have five books slated for 2017?

Yes! Only because of the vagaries of the business: two were supposed to publish this year, but they got pushed back. Given that, I would not be terribly shocked if one of next year’s books slips too, but Ned Young’s terrific art for Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten (Disney Hyperion) is finished, and Here Comes Teacher Cat (Dial) and Part-time Mermaid (Disney Hyperion) are well underway.


What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I sing dinnertime songs to my cat, Bella. She tolerates it. Barely.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

Wow, I think one reason I’m making this career work is that I have no escape hatch! I worked as an administrative assistant for many years; I would be miserable if I had to do that again. Maybe I’d be a freelance musician like many of my friends, cobbling together various singing jobs. I also think it would be fun to work in a creative environment like the story department at Pixar: to be able to write, but have the ability to bounce ideas off of colleagues every day.

How did your career as an author start?

When I got out of college, I had a ridiculous stroke of beginner’s luck: Glamour bought an article I wrote for $1,000, which back then was nearly four times my rent! I made the mistake of thinking that freelance writing would be easy, and quickly learned how wrong I was. After that, I sold some puzzles and some greeting cards, wrote some screenplays no one bought, and generally flailed around till I realized that since I’d always loved children’s books best, maybe I should be writing them.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I’m happy to say that I have nine picture books lined up over the next several years. And I really, really mean to work on something longer this year—either a chapter book or a graphic novel, or maybe one of the abandoned middle grade novels I never finished. It’s a scary thought for me, but we have to keep pushing ourselves and growing, right?

And I’m hoping to make more music. I dropped out of the chamber choir I sang with for nearly two decades when my writing and singing schedules got too difficult to coordinate, but a few months ago I wrote and recorded a lullaby to go along with Good Night, Baddies. It’s a free listen/download at, and I’d love to do more things like that.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just thanks for reading, and I hope they enjoy my books! And I’d like to thank YOU, Dylan, for all you to do support writers and illustrators, and to get kids interested in reading.

Thank you, Deborah, for joining me here!                   

My pleasure—any time!

Lynn Plourde’s Busy Year: Talent Show, Fall, Bears, and Dog Secrets. Exclusive Interview!

Hi Lynn! Thanks for joining me here to talk about all of your 2016 titles!

Thanks for inviting me, Dylan =)!

Tell us a little bit about You’re Doing THAT in the Talent Show?!
(Did I get that title right?)

Yes, Dylan, you got THAT title right! You’re Doing THAT in the Talent Show?!  has just been published by Disney-Hyperion.


It’s the second book about Penelope (the first was You’re Wearing THAT to School?!), who is one enthusiastic hippo . . .


With fun illustrations by Sue Cornelison, Penelope is sooooo excited to do an act in the school’s talent show with her best friend Tiny the mouse. Tiny is the reserved type and wants to sing in the back row of the chorus while Penelope has more extravagant ideas, such as dancing a ballet, doing a Rapunzel skit, or flying on a trapeze.


Or, maybe, she’ll do all THREE acts at the same time. When she does, it’s Tiny who comes to the rescue (as shown in a double gatefold in the book—when flaps open to show four pages at once). The back of the book includes “Tips for a Spectacular Performance” to help kids do their best whenever and wherever they perform. School Library Journal called the book “a showstopper.”

Tell us a little bit more about Bella’s Fall Coat.

Oh, Bella’s Fall Coat . . .


makes me smile. I’ve always lived in Maine and fall is my favorite season (maybe it’s because my birthday is in fall, but Maine falls are truly spectacular—like the trees are throwing leaf confetti on all of us!). In fact, one of my first picture books, Wild Child, is a celebration of fall. Bella’s Fall Coat (publishing September 6th with Disney-Hyperion) has gorgeous collage illustrations by Susan Gal . . .



It’s a story about favorites and wanting things to last forever (which we all know they don’t). It’s also an intergenerational story about a girl who lives with her grandmother. And, squeeeeeel, I dedicated this book to my first grandbaby Beckett (who doesn’t live with me, his Memsy, but with his parents—but they make sure I get plenty of Beckett time since they live two towns away). That grandboy Beckett makes me feel like my heart is bursting . . .



Tell us a little bit more about Baby Bear’s NOT Hibernating!


Baby Bear’s NOT Hibernating is still a bit of a mystery to me. It publishes on October 1st (nice birthday gift!) with Down East Books and with illustrations by Teri Weidner. I’m anxious to see more illustrations—I love Teri’s soft, kid-friendly art. It tells the universal “I don’t want to go to bed yet!” story, but this time it’s Baby Bear who doesn’t want to hibernate for the winter (actually, it’s not really hibernating, but topor which is a lighter sleeping than hibernating). Baby Bear tries to stay awake all winter with his friends: owl, moose, and hare; but, in the end, we know kids (and cubs) always finally go to bed. A fun extra in the back of the book is a list of “Black Bear Facts,” such as:


2016 is a big year for you. Not only do you have three amazing picture book coming out, but also your debut middle grade novel, Maxi’s Secrets! What’s that journey been like for you?


Oh, Dylan, my heart races and tears come to my eyes when I think of Maxi’s Secrets (or, what you can learn from a dog). I have never written a bigger “heart” book. Maxi’s Secrets is based on my beloved dog Maggie who left us three years ago. She taught me so much.

I wanted to share the magic and joy of having a dog with others. And the story is all about Maggie’s heart and silliness and loyalty, but I knew the best way to tell the story was to take a step to the side and turn it into a fictional story—turn my Irish setter-mix dog into a Great White Pyrenees (because the narrator of the story is Timminy, the smallest kid in his middle school, and so he needed a contrasting GIANT dog plus a white one, because Maxi is a deaf dog—and more white dogs are deaf). This novel, since it’s the first I’ve written, feels like being published for the first time (when my first picture book was published, 29 books ago, after 13 years of rejections)—pure JOY!


That cover by Maira Kalman is so gorgeous and looks like a real dog with real secrets staring at you! Working with editor and publisher Nancy Paulsen has been a dream come true—Nancy publishes books with heart, and she put her heart into Maxi and made it a better book. And the response to Maxi from early readers of the ARCs (advanced reader copies) make me cry. Any of your blog readers who want to peek at Maxi’s Secrets before it is published on August 23rd, may click to read an excerpt on this page.

What do you think middle grade readers will enjoy most about Maxi’s Secrets?
Gosh, I hate to predict what readers will “take away” from a book—because we all bring something different to a book. But in my writer’s heart, I hope readers will laugh and cry and realize we all “fit in”—whether we are a big, deaf dog; a tiny middle school boy; a blind, black girl; a soft-hearted “bully”—that we are all more alike, than different.

Have you always been into writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, and my teachers in school (I’m so grateful to them) always let me know I was pretty good at this writing stuff. But I never knew it could be a job, and so I was a speech therapist in schools for 21 years.

What’s the coolest part of your job?

Two parts . . . writing a new story (it feels like pulling magic out of thin air) and sharing books plus writing lessons with students during school visits (they need to know they already are authors!).

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Gonna give you a THREE-FER, Dylan! I live in Maine and don’t like lobster (I know, I know—that’s a sin!). I took baton lessons as a kid and was a majorette in high school and college (and can twirl a baton a bit better than Raymie Nightingale). And I recently got hearing aids (which seems a bit ironic after writing a book about a deaf dog)—but the better to hear you all, my dears!

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I loved being a speech therapist in schools so I’d likely be a teacher or a librarian—or just stay home and read books all day . . . do they pay you to do that?!

What can readers expect from you in the future?

The UN-expected! I like surprising myself which also may surprise my readers. I like new challenges—writing a biography, a graphic novel, a poetic book, and now a middle grade novel. But I soooo loved writing Maxi’s Secrets that I’ve started work on another middle grade novel—stay tuned!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just that I have a blog with videos sharing writing advice with young authors: Make Writing Visible. And that we are ALL readers and writers, and I love a world filled with readers and writers!

There’s More NINJA! Where That Came From: Interview with Arree Chung

Hello, Arree, thank you for joining me for an interview to talk about your 2 upcoming books in 2016!


Tell us a little bit about the new NINJA! Sequel!

NINJA! ATTACK OF THE CLAN is about taking the time to play. There are epic battles and someone gets licked, so there are plenty of shenanigans in the book but there is also an emotional story beat that kids can relate to. In the NINJA! series, I aim to make stories that feel authentic to a child’s experience.


I came up with the idea for ATTACK OF THE CLAN at a Christmas party. The adults were chatting away while the kids played. At some point, the kids invited me to join their game. I’m usually the first one to join in on the ruckus, but this time I was busy catching up with a friend. The kids begged me to play hide and seek with them and I absentmindedly said yes. They ran through the house and found their positions. Ten minutes passed by. One little girl yelled from her hiding spot, “we’re NOT in the guest room!” When I realized that I had neglected the kids, I felt bad. But I knew exactly what I had to do. I hid!

Ninja_Attack_of_Clan_End_Page.jpgWhen the kids came out, they asked where I was. They looked everywhere until, out of nowhere, I surprised them! We rolled around the floor tickling each other. I thought about how it’s so easy to get caught up in the many things we’re that we sometimes forget to take time to play. NINJA! ATTACK OF THE CLAN was so much fun to make and I can’t wait for readers get their hands on it.



Tell us a little bit more about The Fix It Man.

The Fix It Man is a true collaboration between Susan Hood and I. Along with Nancy Inteli and Joe Merkel, (the wonderful folks at Harper Collins), we formed a team and worked in an unconventional way.



Typically, the writer and illustrator do not collaborate in creating books. This is usually done to protect the illustrator. The traditional ways of working are in place for good reason. Sometimes, input from the writer can make hamper the creative process for the illustrator. Editors are very aware of this and are careful about the creative process. However, there are times where a project can benefit from collaboration.  


In making The Fix It Man, Susan and I had weekly calls where we came up with story ideas together. During the week, I would send her loose sketches of ideas and she would send me references and ideas of her own. Then together, we would refine those ideas and sometimes come up with new ones on the fly. It was fun. We both left our egos at the door and were willing to scrap ideas. I threw away drawings and she re-wrote lines. It was a lot more work for everyone involved but I believe it also created the best possible book.


A lot of love went into making The Fix It Man. From the onset, we were pretty ambitious with what we wanted to do. Nancy had an idea of creating a book with Rube Goldberg contraptions, and since I am such a huge fan of Rube Goldberg, I was jazzed. Also, I was inspired by seeing some of Jack Ezra Keats collage illustrations and thought that collage would be the perfect technique to create the art for The Fix It Man. There are a ton of fun details that I think young readers will love.

Do you prefer writing and illustrating your own books, or do you prefer illustrating other people’s books as well?

For me, it all comes down to the story. I believe the story concept is the most important part of the creative. It drives everything from the words written to how the book is illustrated. Sometimes a manuscript will spark my imagination, and I’ll feel compelled to illustrate it. I only take on manuscripts where I have a unique vision for illustrating the story and feel that I can add value.

I have many of my own stories to tell, so I make sure that I reserve time to tell my own stories as well. I love the Children’s book industry because it is one of the few businesses where an artist can wholly deliver his vision. I love making every part of a story, from writing each word to designing every detail. I feel very blessed to be in a creative industry that values originality and voice.

I try to take on only the stories that I am most excited about. Some are written by others and some are of my own. I try to keep a one to one ratio of writing and illustrating my own versus illustrating other people’s books. 

Tell us about the potty training books you’ve worked on with Todd Spector.

I was really excited about making these books because Todd had a unique perspective on potty training. Potty training can be a scary and nerve wracking experience for kids. I loved the idea of making it a fun game. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to create cute illustrations of kids peeing in funny ways.



What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Well, readers probably don’t know that I’m a extrovert and a very outgoing, friendly person. However, I do have my introverted ways, especially when I’m working on story ideas or figuring out a problem in my head. I’m also an ENTP (Myers-Briggs Personality Type.

If you weren’t writing and illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

As an ENTP, I get really excited about ideas and want to make them happen. If I wasn’t making books, I’d be finding ways of making new things into the world. Perhaps product inventions or creating a business from scratch.

How did your career as an author/illustrator start?

Well, my creative journey started with the opportunity to work at Pixar. There, I saw how a story was crafted and designed. I also saw how story tellers could not only entertain but inspire the world through their stories. I knew then, I wanted to be a storyteller.

I left Pixar to become an artist. In Steven Turk’s Children’s Book Illustration class, I fell in love with making books. I loved how the worlds played with the pictures. I loved that I could make every part of the book. Since that class, I have been working steadily on my own stories.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I just wrapped up a picture book I wrote and illustrated titled, OUT! It’s about a toddler and his loyal dog, Bella. When the kid escapes his crib, Bella has to keep him safe. All sorts of things happen and Bella is always blamed for the mischief. It is a very funny and heartwarming story that I am really proud of.



Currently, I am working on a NINJA! Christmas book. I don’t want to say too much about it right now since I’m still in the middle of it but I can tell you there are plenty of traps and surprises. It’s pretty fun.

I also have more stories with Maxwell planned. There is a ghost story idea that involves ghosts from Chinese folklore. There’s also a story idea where Maxwell and a friend are playing but things get out of hand and somebody gets hurt. This is something that happened in my childhood and was frightening for me at the time. So there are many more NINJA! stories still to make.


I am also working on a very personal middle grade novel titled MING LEE. It’s about my experiences growing up as a Chinese-American. I didn’t feel completely American nor Chinese. There are a lot of funny stories to share and I think a lot of kids will be able to relate to it.

Also on the diversity theme, I have a picture book idea titled MIXED. I’m super excited about this concept and hope it will be the next book picture book that I publish.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

We’ll be adding more activity guides and content to in June. When I have a little more time, I am also planning on posting my process of making picture books. I hope it will be helpful for other storytellers young and old! So check back to at the end of June. Readers can also connect to me at or on social media.

Find Arree Chung’s Facebook Page

Follow Arree Chung on Twitter.

Thank you, Arree, for joining me here!

Slip, Slide, Hop, Bend… Review of A Hop is Up by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Lori Richmond

A hop is up,
A bend is down,
A spin is around and around and around.

So it goes in this new title from Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by debut illustrator, Lori Richmond.

As Kristy cranks out a text that plays with language, movement, direction, and prepositions, Lori Richmond adds her special touch with illustrations that tell us the story about a boy and his dog.

Lori’s illustration style is one that children and adults alike are going to fall in love with, and I understand this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Lori’s illustrations.

From an Amble-Ramble slow walk of ducks across a street, to a slip and a slide with an ice cream cone, we follow a boy through a walk in the city. We meet other animals, characters, and more, all concluding where we started- with a hop is up, as the boy and his dog hop into bed for some rest after their busy day moving around.

I envision teachers reading this aloud and having students do whole body movement do the words and language in the book. I could even envision it as a jump rope rhyme.

Regardless, it’s a book you have to place on your “Must own” list, and grab it when it comes out this fall from Bloomsbury! Lori-Richmond-a-hop-is-up-book.jpg.png

Garbage In: Music Out. A Review of Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood

“The world sends us garbage. We send back music.”- Favio Chavez

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

You can head to any garage sale and find this true. What one person is willing to sell for a dime, another finds a true bargain and takes it home; sometimes transforming it into a greater purpose.

Ada’s Violin is the story of making treasure out of trash- by recycling materials from the landfill to create instruments.

When Ada’s grandmother sends her to string lessons, the children are frustrated because there are not enough string instruments to go around. How are they supposed to learn, let alone practice?

But Favio Chavez is a man of possibility. Susan Hood so wonderfully tells the story of how Favio creates instruments out of treasures found at the landfill.

The band gets together to learn- and they need some practice, but with practice, hard work, determination, and pride, they go farther beyond their wildest dreams ever imagined. Susan Hood tells their story wonderfully, coupled with Sally Wern Comport’s illustrations.

Susan Hood had this to say about the story in an earlier interview I did with her:

It’s the true story of children living on a landfill in Paraguay who formed the Recycled Orchestra, playing instruments made from recycled trash. You may have seen them profiled on 60 Minutes or in the trailer for the Landfill Harmonic documentary movie that went viral on social media.

It all started when a man named Favio Chávez came to the landfill as an environmental engineer. He couldn’t bear to see the children playing in the trash and polluted water, so he decided to offer music lessons. He had five instruments to share, but 10 kids showed up. And there was a bigger problem. It wasn’t safe to be seen with an expensive instrument in a town where a violin is worth more than a house. Chávez hit upon the genius idea to create musical instruments from the trash: flutes from drain pipes, cellos from oil drums, and violins from baking sheets. He taught the kids to play Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart, AND a few other things—discipline, dedication to an art, respect for themselves and for each other. In the stinking, sweltering slum they called home, he gave them something to be proud of.


Photo courtesy of

Today, the orchestra is touring the world; they recently played for the Pope! Funds earned from their concerts go back to their town of Cateura, where they are building new homes and lifting up the entire community.

I interviewed Conductor Favio Chávez for the book as well as the orchestra’s first violinist, young Ada Ríos. The illustrations in the book are gorgeous mixed-media collages by gifted artist Sally Wern Comport; they perfectly mirror the recycled instruments and the world of the landfill.

violin 1.jpg

violin 2.jpg

The English and Spanish edition came out simultaneously on May 3 from Simon and Schuster. You’ll want a copy of your own.

Goblins, Mighty Jack, and More to Come from Ben Hatke

Hey Ben! Thanks for joining me here to talk about a few great 2016 titles you have coming out!


Tell us a little bit about Nobody Likes a Goblin. 

Nobody Likes a Goblin Is a picture book in the same vein as my book Julia’s House for Lost Creatures. The story was influenced by a lifelong love of fantasy stories and the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons. 

I’d noticed that often in these stories, and especially in the games, goblins were very low-level “bad guys.” Goblins tended to be the first creatures you’d encounter in a dungeon, and usually a party of “heroes” would kill a goblins without a second thought. So I wanted to write a book for the goblins.

I had a blast making this book and I dedicated it to my role playing group. We still meet every Wednesday. Specifically the book is dedicated to our first band of adventurers, known throughout the realm as “Black Stag and the Beefy Boys”  

Nobody Likes a Goblin will be released on June 7th. For me June 7th is now Goblin’s Day.


Tell us a little bit more about Mighty Jack.

Mighty Jack is a single graphic novel adventure story that spans two books. By my best recollection I started working on an adaptation of Jack and the Beanstalk as early as 2006. I poked away at the ideas for years before the project grew into its present form. In its final form, the story is no longer a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk so much a tale spinning out from that source. You might get the impression that these events happen cyclically. That, somewhere, there’s always a Jack…

There are also a couple of fun cameos from the Zitaverse, if you like that sort of thing!

The first volume of Mighty Jack will be available on September 6th. The second volume, which is what I’m working on now, will release roughly a year later.


You’ve recently started doing live inking on Periscope. It’s pretty cool to watch you work “live”- what inspired you to do this? Is it something you’ll continue doing?

You know, normally having someone watch over my shoulder while I draw would be miserable for me, but doing the something similar through live streaming is really fun. I’m enjoying sharing a bit of the process with people. Periscope (and live streaming in general) suggests a lot of interesting possibilities. I’m sure I’ll continue to play with it.

Have you always been into writing/drawing?

Oh yes. Once we visited the house that I grew up in the couple who lived there was taking down the wallpaper. Underneath they found drawings that I had scrawled on the wall when I was probably only 3 year old.

Entertaining my family and friends with words and pictures has been a constant in my life, even when I thought I was going to go on to do different things. (I seriously considered joining a circus).


What’s the coolest part of your job?

Oof, that’s a tough one. The whole thing seems miraculous. I mean, even on the frustrating days there is still someone out there, someone who I haven’t met yet, enjoying one of my stories. 

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

One day, I was waiting in line to ride the Ferris wheel and I got out of line to say hello to some friends. Then the people in line said “Hurry up, Ben! It’s almost your turn!” So I turned and ran back toward the Ferris wheel but I ran into a cable that was holding up a nearby tree. I ran into it with my face. 

And that’s why I have a scar on the bridge of my nose.

If you weren’t writing and books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I would probably be nearing the end of a career as a stunt person and wishing that I could write and draw books.


What can readers expect from you in the future? 

Oh there is so much to come! The next thing I am working on is a chapter book called Miracle Molly. It’s about a girl with a fox tail.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

 I share a podcast with my friends writer/artists Zack Giallongo and Jerzy Drozd. We talk about storytelling and art and we’re on a space ship. Sort of. 

Thanks, Ben, for joining me here today! What a great year for readers!

Tammi Sauer: I LOVE CAKE! and a Give Away!

Hello, Tammi, thank you for joining me for an interview to talk about your latest works, and what’s ahead for you!

Tell us a little bit about I Love Cake!

This book stars three best friends:  Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose. On Rabbit’s birthday, she invites her buddies over for a party. All goes well…until the cake (and Moose!) mysteriously disappear.


The idea for this book was inspired by a plate.


When I saw that bear in his big red underpants surrounded by some very incriminating evidence, I knew I had to write a story about a character who finds himself in this delicious dilemma.

Check out the Trailer for I LOVE CAKE! Here!

Tell us a little bit about Mary Had a Little Glam.

Mary is my first rhymer! I was inspired to write this book when reading Linda Ashman’s The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. One of the writing exercises was to come up with something based on a familiar rhyme or song like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Out of nowhere, the words, “MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM” popped into my head. It was a total gift.


This book includes appearances by some very familiar characters including Little Bo Peep, Little Miss Muffet, and Georgie Porgie.

As for Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s artwork? It’s fabulous, darling.

Along with these two titles, you have two companion books to two previous titles you’ve done. First comes Ginny Louise and the School Field Day. What’s that about?

I never planned on writing a companion book to Ginny Louise and the School Showdown. It was a welcomed surprise when my editor emailed and said she was interested in more Ginny Louise. It took me a while to come up with Ginny Louise’s next school adventure, but, once I did, it was fun to dig in and spend time with Ginny Louise and her signature joy. This book involves some standard school field day events and some not-so-standard moves by Destructo Dude, Cap’n Catastrophe, and, of course, Make My Day May.


Also, Your Alien Returns, is coming up, a sequel to Your Alien. Tell us about that.

When I sold Your Alien, it was part of a two-book deal. Sterling wanted Your Alien Returns and asked me to write a book about the boy visiting the alien’s home planet.

What a challenge!

After some brainstorming, I came up with an interplanetary play date. While on this play date, the boy and alien have a wonderful day together…until one moment changes everything.


In Your Alien, the boy ends up being a bit of a hero. This time around, I wanted to give the alien a chance to save the day. He does just that and the boy deems him “the best friend in the history of the universe.”

I can’t wait for everyone to see the alien world that Goro Fujita came up with. I would totally vacation there.

What’s been the biggest challenge for you as a writer?

When it comes to writing, my biggest challenge is coming up with a good idea. Some people can come up with 2,453 ideas before breakfast. Not me. Once I have that strong, fresh, irresistible-to-editors idea, though, the fun begins.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I married the boy who drove me crazy in middle school.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

If I weren’t writing books, I’d probably return to teaching. I loved working with pre-k through eighth grade kids. One of the big job perks was that I came home with good stories every day—especially when I taught pre-k. I remember telling the parents of my pre-k students, “Oh, I know everything about you.” 🙂

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Following 2016, I have another nine books on the way. Titles include Truck, Truck, Goose (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books), The Farm that Mac Built (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), and Caring for Your Lion (Sterling).

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

If you are a big fan of picture books, please visit my group blog We share (and dissect!) our favorites, conduct interviews, offer behind-the-scenes skinny, and more.

Thank you, Tammi, for joining me here!

Thanks for having me, Dylan. And thanks for all you do in support of children’s literature!

GIVEAWAY!!! — Retweet any of my tweets about this blog post, and be entered to win a copy of I LOVE CAKE! (my Twitter handle is @dylanteut). Contest Ends at Midnight on May 4!