Coming Soon: 2018 Picture Books Part Nine!

Get ready to scroll through another great line up of what we have to look forward to later this year! More to come!









































Bub is Here! Interview with Elizabeth Rose Stanton

Hey Beth! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your 2018 picture book, Bub!

Always a pleasure to visit, Dylan!  


Tell us a little bit about Bub.

Bub is the quintessential middle child—except he’s a little monster.  Try as he might, he finds it hard to be seen and heard by his loud and distracted little monster family—that is, until he decides to take matters into his own hands…er, claws. Mayyybee there’s some magic, but, basically, Bub goes unseen to be seen! Bub is really for anyone who feels caught in the middle, and is as much for families as it Is for an individual child.


Tell us a little bit about your process.

Rather than a story idea, I usually come up with a character or characters first (by way of, what I like to call, procrastidoodling). Then the story flows from there. But I would have to say that Bub was a fair combination of character-idea and story-idea.


I had been toying with the idea of a misbehaving little monster family (and had been drawing a lot of little monsters), while at the same time was thinking about doing a story about a middle child. My editor at Simon and Schuster suggested I combine the two. . . and out came BUB!


Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I studied art history in college, and then went on to become an architect. Getting married and having kids bumped me off my creative track for a while, but as soon as my youngest entered kindergarten, I dove into art (since at that point it wasn’t practical for me to return to architecture). I worked as a portrait artist and fine artist, and completed certification in scientific illustration. It turns out that all this, as well as my training as an architect, was great prep for building picture books!

 What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I’d have to say it’s coming up with the with the characters. It’s fun because it involves drawing and, at first, the sky’s the limit! When they appear on the page, I make lots of notes and keep drawing them until a story begins to emerge. The second most fun, once I have the story figured out (which I think is the hard part), is winnowing away at the text and fitting it and the preliminary drawings into a dummy. It’s like solving a challenging but fun puzzle.

 What inspires your creativity?

I’m not really sure. I think creativity is a combination of mystery and hard work. Things can be hard-thought, or come out of nowhere. But one thing I know is that it’s something I can’t seem to let go of, in spite of the ups and downs. One of my favorite quotes is from Maurice Sendak: “I do it because I can’t not.”

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

Well, since BUB is about being in the middle, here are two middle things:  One is, I’m not a middle child. I am the youngest. Second, my middle name, Rose, was actually my last name before I got married.  Sometimes I wish I hadn’t changed it. Beth Rose take up so much less space 😉


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

Playing the banjo.



What can readers expect from you in the future?

I recently signed a contract with Simon & Schuster for another picture book! Henny and Peddles will have a companion . . . COWIE. Yes, I’m back to farm animals. Cowie (who, by the way, is not a cow), will be released in early 2020.

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

Only to say thank you, Dylan, as well as all the other people like you who work so hard on behalf of children and children’s literature. You make the world a better place.


 More about BUB 

I Am Loved: Interview with Ashley Bryan and Nikki Giovanni

I am quite honored to have two literary individuals who I admire dearly on my blog today…. Ashley Bryan and Nikki Giovanni, who have recently collaborated on I Am Loved.


Thank you for taking the time to join me here at Mile High Reading!   

Ashley: Thank you!

Tell us a little bit about I Am Loved from your perspective.

Nikki: I love the morning light.  When I was younger I liked to write at night because the dog and my son were asleep and the house was quiet.  My father had a stroke and we moved back home to help my mother so my habits changed.  Now that everyone is grown or has transitioned, I am back to my lonely habits.

Ashley: The very title lifts the spirit. Anyone who sends the book to anyone else is saying something from the heart, to the heart. It’s a year-round Valentine!

Nikki, can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? 

Nikki: I think the most important thing is to observe.  I watch.  And reading is great.  I never seem to have enough time to read.  Even if it’s no more than the comics I read a bit of something everyday.

Ashley, can you tell us a little bit about your illustration process?

Ashley: First I read the text of the poem or story and absorb it.  Then I start sketching compositional ideas that the words provoke. And then I choose a composition, and another world of color enters it now, so I can make a complete painting to accompany the words.

Have you always been into writing / illustrating?

Nikki: I love images so I’ve always loved words.  I had the joy recently of challenging my class to how a word was formed and became a part of our everyday use.  They were surprised at how they used words that they had no idea where they came from or why we use them.  I would have loved to paint with paints but I had no talent.  I could paint what I saw with words, though and that gave me something to share.

Ashley: Yes, no question about that! From babyhood on!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Nikki:  Watching young people read and respond to my work.

Ashley: The challenge to create, which is universal.

What inspires your creativity?

Nikki:  I actually like people and cheer for our possibilities.  I am a space freak so the future means a lot to me.  I love that Ashley put a mirror on the last page so everyone could see Yes:  I Am Loved.  And that is the future.

Ashley: The joyous response of others to my work, my creations, is what inspires my creativity.

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

Nikki:  I can’t dance.  I can sing but I can’t carry a tune.  That doesn’t bother me so much as I can’t dance.

Ashley: I love gummies! Sour Patch Kids especially (he says with a great laugh)!

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

Nikki: I would probably be a chef and if I won a big lottery I’d create a create restaurant.

Ashley: I’d become an inventor of the book form if it weren’t existing, because I can’t imagine ever doing anything but writing and painting. So if there was no book form in existence to put writing and art into, I’d invent that.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Nikki: I am working on a book with my friend Kaye Graham, The Wednesday Club, in which the mothers of sons get to discuss children books. We’ve see a couple of men talk about books that affected them, but Kaye and I are mothers and we thought it would be interesting to see how the mothers looked at the same subject.

Ashley: Ongoing work with creating books that will engage the children especially, but for all ages.

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

Nikki:  Don’t smoke.  No joke. You can’t go into space if you smoke because it changes how you can return to Earth.

Ashley: That they will find ways of creating – don’t let a day go by without creating something.  Whether with an instrument or writing or painting or other creative activity – but create every day!

COVER REVEAL: Eraser by Geisel Award winners Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant

I am honored today to reveal the cover of a new book by Geisel Award winners Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant….

Eraser is always cleaning up everyone else’s mistakes. Except for Ruler and Pencil Sharpener, none of the other school supplies seem to appreciate her. They all love how sharp Pencil is and how Tape and Glue help everyone stick together. Eraser wants to create so that she can shine like the others. She decides to give it a try, but it’s not until the rubber meets the road that Eraser begins to understand a whole lot about herself.

Inspired by a school essay their daughter Kate wrote in the third grade, the author and illustrator behind Theodor Seuss Geisel Award–winner You Are (Not) Small have created a desktop drama about figuring out who you are, finding happiness, and the importance of second, third, and maybe even fourth chances.


ERASER cover hi res.jpg

You can pre-order Eraser here!

Interview with Joseph Kuefler, Author/Illustrator of The Digger and The Flower, Coming Soon!

Hey Joseph! Thanks for joining me here to talk about what you’ve been up to!

Hello there. Thanks for having me. Boy…I’ve been up to quite a bit these days, which is why it took you so long to nail me down and get me here.


I’m juggling a few projects at the moment. In addition to working on my fourth book (also with Balzer + Bray), I’m illustrating two works for authors who are not me, which has been really fun. The first one that will hit shelves is a middle grade book set in the bayou. When my agent (Elena Giovinazzo) sent me the manuscript to gauge my interest, I thought I’d read through the first few pages and decide I didn’t like it. The opposite happened: I didn’t stop reading until the last page was turned. Naturally, I had to say yes. The second project is a picture book written by the lovely Beth Ferry. She’s such a wonderful writer. Seeing inside her process has helped me to grow as an author.


There’s other things in the works, but it’s probably too early to talk about those things.

Tell us a little bit about your 2017 book, Rulers of the Playground.

Rulers of the Playground is the story of two characters who decide to conquer the playground. Naturally, the playground isn’t big enough for the both of them, so they’ve got to work it out. After Beyond the Pond, I knew I wanted to create a book that used humor and physical gags. At the same time, like many people, I was processing the many things going on in the world—from global politics to personal developments in my own life. Somehow, that desire to tell a funny story turned into something with a slightly heavier subtext.

I began the book long before the results of the election seemed like the remotest possibility. The book has taken on a slightly more poignant meaning for me, but such an on-the-nose topic was certainly not our intention.


Tell us a little bit about your process.

Boy, my process is so different with each book. As an author-illustrator, I am afforded more luxury with respect to process. What has been consistent with my first three books is that they’ve all began with the imagining a moment of tension—a boy discovering his pond has no bottom, a boy deciding to claim the playground as his own, and—in my third book—an excavator running off to nature. From there I just work at the concept to build to and resolve the tension.

In some ways, the process is similar to sculpting marble. You keep chiseling away at something to discover the sculpture that’s been hiding within the block all along.


From there I illustrate. My illustration process isn’t wildly unique or groundbreaking. I begin with small and crude thumbnails of each page and refine them until I don’t hate what I’m looking at. Truly. I’m not sure how most artists feel, but, for me, I’m never truly pleased with my work. There’s always something I could have done better or an idea I never quite got around to executing correctly. But one must ship the work and move on. Deadlines are a great tool for combating one’s obsessive tendencies.

 Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

Certainly. I’ve been into the arts all my life. When I was young, I would fiddle with writing screenplays and would draw and paint all the time. Writing has played a less prominent roll in my life than the visual arts, but it’s now the medium and process I love most. I’m looking forward to tackling increasingly longer pieces of writing in the coming years. We’ll see what happens.

 What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Full disclosure: picture books are still a glorified hobby. I’m a creative director by day, which offers some exciting day-to-day things, but that’s not what this blog is about. The most exciting thing about making picture books is not having an authority to answer to. Alessandra (Balzer, my publisher) and I have an incredible working relationship. She let’s me chase my passions and ideas to whatever end excites me. Along the way, her only requirement is that it be incredible, and who can argue with that. There’s a creative freedom to the writing and illustrating of picture books one can easily find elsewhere. I work closely with big brands during the day, so coming home and being able to express myself freely is exceptionally exciting.

 What inspires your creativity?

The short answer is…everything. My brain constantly develops and process new ideas, it’s sort of the default state of my mind. Because of that, any sensory input gives me new ideas. Films, music, nature, walks, the overheard conversation—it all has the ability to spark something. This is both hugely satisfying and incredibly maddening. Creating is something I can’t turn off. There’s a downside to that.

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

Eeesh. A confession. You didn’t tell me we’d be confessing today.

I’m sure readers think the work just falls out of me. The truth is making picture books is hard…really hard. Maybe this will change when I’m no longer working a day job, but each book is a struggle. I’ve even developed a formula to predict how many times I will cry during each project. I call it my Formula for Tears. It’s pretty simple, actually. Take the page count of a project and divide it by ten. For Rulers that would be 48. That’s 4.8 times. Of course, you’ve got to round up. So 5 times.

 When I share this with kids during school visits they laugh. But it’s the truth. Making art is hard. It’s really hard when you aspire to create work of the highest caliber (something I’ve still failed to do).

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

If I wasn’t writing books, I’d be writing films or developing animated television series. Films are the great love of my life. My career continues to creep closer to that, so we’ll see.

 What can readers expect from you in the future?

More books, obviously. My fourth is a character platform and something I hope to create many books for. We’ll see if this proves true. I reserve the right to change my mind about that.

A few of my own middle grade books have been nagging at me this year and last. One is an adventure and the other is a quiet story of loss. I’m also in the very early stages of developing a few animated television series. Perhaps news of one of these projects being made real will find its way to readers in the future.

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

My third book, The Digger and the Flower, hits shelves in late January. I’m really proud of the book. I hope readers are too.

ROT! The Cutest in the World– Interview with Ben Clanton

I had the honor of hosting Ben Clanton on my blog two years ago- check out that interview here. He’s back today to talk about Rot, the Cutest in the World!


Hi Ben! Welcome back to my blog!

Thanks, Dylan! It’s a pretty great place to be!

Tell us a little bit about your new book, Rot, the Cutest in the World!

This book (the start of a series!) stars one of my very favorite things to draw: a mutant potato. His name is Rot and like most mutant potatoes, Rot loves mud, eating stuff, and all sorts of games and contests. So when Rot sees a sign for a “Cutest in the World Contest,” he can’t wait to enter. But he finds out he has some tough (and somewhat mean) competition: “an itty-bitty baby bunny, a little-wittle cuddly kitten, and an eenie-weenie jolly jellyfish. Yet, like most mutant potatoes, Rot doesn’t give up easily.”



Rot, the Cutest in the World! is first and foremost meant to be a fun book to read, but at the same time is very much about self-confidence (something I struggle with) and that most things are “in the eye(s) of the beholder.”


Tell us about where you got the idea for Rot.

Quite a few years ago I started drawing dirt clod creatures with flowers growing out of their heads. I’m not really sure why, but it made me happy. So I kept making them! And soon those dirt clods became potato monsters (again, not sure why!) and they would eat up all the cute/fluffy things in my sketchbooks. It was after a phone call with Christian Trimmer (children’s book author and editor) in 2015 that they became mutant potatoes instead and the idea for a story starring one of them struck me. Christian asked me during that call if I had any characters or ideas worthy of a picture book series. He talked about Ian Falconer’s Olivia and Mo Willems’s Pigeon. He essentially challenged me to do my best to create something worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as those series.


At first, I was overwhelmed by the challenge, but then I remembered how I read about Mo Willems’s Pigeon taking over the margins of his sketchbooks and it reminded me of how my potatoes seemed to be demanding their own story with their antics. I also remembered an ugly and somewhat revolting little comic I had drawn once about a foul monster that much like my potato monsters had the bad habit of eating people up. The trouble was that the monster in that comic and my potato monsters were not very likable, and I didn’t care much for the idea of making a series about unlikeable characters. I like to have protagonists you want to root for! So I looked back at those early dirt clod people/creatures I had drawn. They were friendly looking and I decided to allow that friendliness to enter my potato monsters. Soon they were mutant potatoes instead. They were still weird looking and acting, but now in a good way. My first mock-up for Rot, the Cutest in the World! came together pretty quickly after making that change as too did a bunch of other stories starring Rot and my mutant potatoes.


 Can you share some of your process for illustrating Rot? Were real potatoes involved?

I had oodles of fun making the art for this book! Probably more so than any book I’ve worked on previously. And, yes, real potatoes were involved in the making of this book! I bought a couple huge bags of potatoes (russet and yukon gold) and gave myself about a week to play with them. I cut potato stamps to make textures and the speech bubbles for the book. I even ended up using a photo of a potato at one point in the book. The illustrations are mainly made using colored pencil and watercolors but I think the potato-made additions really added a lot. I rendered pretty much all the components separately and then assembled everything on the computer (Photoshop). In the illustrations, I strived to really distinguish Rot from the other creatures in the book. So I went with flat-ish pastel colors for the “cute” creatures while Rot is a blotchy and earthy brown/green. The line-work for him is also a little looser and I went with a messy-ish hand-lettered approach for Rot’s speech bubbles while the “cute” characters have flourish-y lettering.







What can readers expect from you in the future?

I’m currently working on Narwhal and Jelly book #4! Peanut Butter and Jelly (the third book in that series) comes out in March and then Monster Boogie by Laurie Berkner and illustrated by me comes out Summer 2018. After finishing the next Narwhal and Jelly book I will be making a Rot sequel in which we meet Rot’s brother!


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

Sure! Rot’s name is a bit of a nod to a book I grew up with: Rotten Ralph by Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel.


And I’ll share more about Rot soon over on my blogsite:

Thanks Dylan!

2017 Picture Book Recommendations

Several students in my university courses and colleagues and friends have asked which books published in 2017 I’d recommend. Whether you’re someone building a classroom wish list, a Christmas wish list, or any other kind of list, these are some books from 2017 that I want to highlight. Enjoy! (These books are in no particular order).


Fall is my favorite season. Every year, I attempt to go out to a secluded area filled with trees and capture some of the beauty. Every year I come up short. My pictures never do it justice. What April is able to do here is make you feel like you’re in the middle of fall, regardless of which season you’re in. Add the lyrical text to the photographs and you’ve got yourself a winner.


I have two nieces on the way. They are getting a copy of this book. Nancy Inteli was so wise in picking Loren Long to illustrate this text. He does it so perfectly, and I found myself so longingly wishing I could visit that little Bunny land.


This book belongs on more “Best of the Year” book lists. It’s no secret I have a deep admiration for Judy Schachner and her books, but this one was the best yet. “She had daydreaming in her DNA.” I think the world needs more daydreamers, and more appreciation for daydreamers. Judy manages to paint so many daydreams across the pages here that call for a moment to pause and appreciate every finite detail.


I was pulled into this book by the title and cover, and Ben Clanton did not disappoint. (Not that I ever doubted he would). I was sure Rot was doomed, and a surprise twist makes this book a true winner.


Something about the dialogue in this book reminded me so much of what I used to hear among first graders. Very simple, but very well done. And Scott Magoon’s illustrations? Perfect match for this story. Excited there’s more to come.


How often do we overlook the opportunity to be grateful and appreciative of the origins of some of the most simple things we take for granted? Toni Yuly has written a thank you letter to some things in nature that provide us with blessings- going from small to big. And when I closed the book, I whispered, “And God gave us earth. Thank you, God.”


With so much violence and disagreement in the world today, the earlier we can plant seeds of empathy and encourage thoughtful ways to get over disagreement, the better. The book is wordless, and the pictures powerfully say it all.


Reading this book brought me back to the days of hearing Mr. Rogers say, “I like you just the way you are.” We all have our warts and flaws and scars, but aren’t they what come together to make us beautiful?


Unique illustrations that popped in contrast with the dark backgrounds- this book left me wanting more. Another wordless wonder.


This is the first time I encountered this kind of poetry, and what Nikki Grimes was able to accomplish with it is admirable. So well done. And let’s not forget Bryan Collier’s soft illustrations that make it a perfect package.


When I first read this book, I had no idea where it was going. It’s wordless. When it finally came to the “AHA” spread, I was laughing …. laughing…. laughing.


We can learn a lot from Lulu. She makes the best of a bad situation. There is something so perfect about this book. It became an instant favorite. Then again, you can’t really go wrong with anything by Liz Garton Scanlon, can you?


The fact that Jan Thomas is doing Easy Readers is a great thing. I’m excited for more books in this series to come- they will be an easy sell to beginning readers.


If you’re not familiar with Susie Jaramillo’s Canticos bilingual song board books, you should change that promptly. They’re fun to unfold and sing along with, and the music on the accompanying YouTube videos and soundtracks is so catchy.


A book of poems about reading- its different types and varieties? My favorite was the poem about reading Charlotte’s Web. Perfect.


I was in Matt’s studio when he was painting the final spreads for this book. Seeing it all come together in this majestic beauty was so fulfilling. There is so much to love about this story- and not just at Christmas time.


I got to the end of this book and let out a big “AWWW!” … Heartwarming and touching.


Pair this one with Melissa Stewart’s Feathers: Not Just For Flying. The illustrations and close ups of the bird feathers allow the reader to appreciate and wonder about why feathers are so different, and also so special.


Surprises. Twist ending. Fun. Don’t miss it.


Who knew toads lived hidden lives? Not me. Such spectacular photography accompanied by tidbits of intriguing information make this book one to note.


Fascinating facts, stunning illustrations, and an excellent pattern to the text make this book a winner. Melissa Stewart at her best!


This book has received much well-deserved praise and recognition. I think Corinna’s future as an author/illustrator is very promising- this is just the beginning!


What does water mean to different children around the world? This was easily an instant favorite that I have talked a lot about this year. Water does unite us all, and it’s taken for granted by some.


Rich with possibilities for making predictions; and yet a tale with many twists and turns. I won’t say more in fear of ruining a surprise or two.


Elisha Cooper so gently and delicately deals with a difficult topic. Another instant favorite book that is worth keeping close to your heart. Cat lover or not.


The concept… the illustrations… leave you wondering, just why are so many things in nature round?


Stephanie amazed me with the complexity of this wordless story. And it’s got an encouraging message as well. Another title that was not hard to book talk and push all year long.


Children will do anything to procrastinate going to bed. and Rachel Isadora captures it in such a sweet way. Global and multicultural, the book also opens many windows for readers here to glimpse into bedtime across the world.


Mind-blowing. That’s all I can say.


Life begins small….  Rylant at her best. Wenzel at his best. The best of the best.


I was so discouraged that this book did not garner more publicity or praise when it was published. Candace Fleming so carefully weaves together an imaginative story with repetitive text that encourage us all to pause for a moment and enjoy the circus. I love all of Candy’s books, but this one may have ranked itself at the top of the list.


You can just hear Carmen’s voice in your head reading this book as you read it to yourself. A master storyteller doing her thing, and doing it well.


The see-saw text of questions and answers and back and forth invite us to pause and wonder about the beauty of a winter landscape before it quickly disappears and spring comes. And Seeger’s illustrations? Another perfect match.


Another book I fell in love with quickly after reading- I love birthdays and if you know me, you know that I celebrate mine all month. And why not? I’m as excited as this young child when my day is around the corner— and I think many children are, too.


Oh Daniel Miyares… when I think you can’t possibly outdo yourself… you do. This is a worthy investment. Inspiring and encouraging.


We need more books like this- books that pack a bit of a punch without hitting you over the head with a message. Kelly DiPucchio does it just right. A must have for every classroom.


There were a number of “toot” and “fart” books this year, but this one was the stand-out. Without being slapstick funny, this one gives kids just the right amount of giggles as they try to identify the tooter.


Cover Reveal: It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

Here today with an interview and a cover reveal of her Summer ’18 title is Jody Jensen Shaffer!

Hi Jody! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Thanks for having me, Dylan!

Tell us a little bit about your new book, It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! is about a school bus that is having first-day-of-school jitters. Will the children like him? Will they know they’re safe riding with him? What if he gets homesick? Fortunately, Ben the bus driver helps Busy Bus feel ready and loved so he can have a great schoolyear.

I’m excited to share this book with children (and parents) who might be having their own first-day-of-school jitters. The illustrations by Claire Messer are warm and tender and perfect, and Beach Lane is a dream publisher. I feel really lucky.

Tell us a little bit about your writing process.  

I usually start by writing down my initial idea in a notebook. I draft it longhand until I know where I’m going. Then once I’ve got the story figured out, I transfer my notes to the computer. From there, I work and rework the story, printing it out several times, marking it up, reading it aloud, making changes, and printing it out again until I’m satisfied. Then I send it to critique partners for their input, make changes again, and send it to my agent.

Have you always been into writing?

Yes, I had an affinity for words, creativity, and for the physical act of writing with a sharp pencil on crisp, white paper from the time I was young. And from what I can tell from looking at some of my oldest work, I also had an affinity for exclamation points that hasn’t subsided!

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

Getting a call from my agent saying my manuscript has sold! But in terms of the day-to-day work, I love molding an idea into a great story and then revising it until it’s as good as I can make it. I love the possibility of my ideas becoming books.

What inspires your creativity?

My children, the natural world, contests, my past, snippets of overheard conversations, sermons, others’ stories and poems, my dog, so many things!

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

I was in several musicals as a child and teen, and I loved every minute of them!

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

Probably teaching composition and other English classes in college. I was an adjunct instructor for both of my alma maters.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

I have several new books in the pipeline, but I’m not allowed to talk about them yet. I feel very fortunate to be able to continue to write for kids.

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

I’m really grateful to be part of the kidlit community, which is so big-hearted and talented.

And now…. here’s the cover!

Busy Bus revised cover.png