Archive for ‘Notes’

July 27, 2014

Behind the Scenes with Chronicle Books plus a Video Book Review

Hi Readers,

So sorry I have been away for the past four months. I have missed all of you. I have been focusing on my own picture book writing and it has been going really well. I am definitely finding my groove so I will start blogging again. I cannot wait to tell you about all the fabulous books coming out this Fall 2014. And I am also taking Katie Davis’s Video Boot Camp course so hopefully you will start to see more video reviews from me as well.




Chronicle Books is an independent publisher based in San Francisco. They produce gorgeous, smart, visually appealing books. This past week children’s editor Melissa Manlove and book designer Ryan Hayes gave a behind the scenes look at children’s publishing. The event was moderated by Irene and Sally from the Marketing department. Below are some of the highlights from the event.

Q: Who partakes in the Acquisition meetings?

A: Editors, Book Designers, Production, Marketing, Publicity … pretty much everyone involved with the book except for Sales.

Q: What makes it a great book for Chronicle? (to Melissa)

A: Magic. (Melissa retold a story of how when they were working on JOSEPHINE, they realized that the text and art were too scrunched up. So Melissa asked her boss if they could have more pages. And the answer was yes. JOSEPHINE is a 3,800 word non-fiction story told in verse. It is 104 pages long!)

josephine collage2


Q: How big is the slush pile?

A: They receive 9-10,000 manuscripts a year. The editorial team gets together once a month to go through the slush pile.

Q: Where do the stories come from that get published?

A: Most stories come from existing authors that they have worked with and from agents. However, they do find stories in the slush pile. They also have a small percentage of stories that are work-for-hire.

Q: What is Chronicle’s position on ebooks and story apps?

A: Chronicle is issuing ebooks for all their frontlist titles. With regards to storybook apps they are not seeing the return on investment at this time, so are taking a wait and see approach.

Q: How many books does Chronicle print on a first-run?

A: This is something that is discussed at the acquisition meeting but the final decision is made later on by the publishing director and sales team. Average first-run in children’s books is 10-15,000. Basically enough to last 3-6months. Their philosophy is to print small and print rapidly.

STEAM TRAIN, DREAM TRAIN did have a first run of 100,00. But keep in mind this follows GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT CONSTRUCTION SITE which has been on the New York Bestseller’s list for 146 weeks!

Q: If a writer-only is submitting a novelty book idea can they submit a prototype or extra material.

A: Submit whatever is necessary to get the vision across. (The novelty book WHAT’S IN YOUR PURSE was created by a writer-only author and she did submit additional pdfs explaining/showing the interactive portions of the book.)

Hope you found these few highlights helpful. If you have any other questions fell free to ask in the comments. If I know the answer I’ll try to answer.

For your viewing pleasure below is my first ever video review of the adorable book WHAT’S IN YOUR PURSE by Chronicle Books. Enjoy!

February 28, 2014

Interview with Salina Yoon and Penguin


Yesterday I reviewed the heart-warming Penguin series. Today I am so excited to share my interview with Salina Yoon. I met Salina through the Verla Kay Blueboards (now SCBWI boards) where she is an active member. She has a generous, caring spirit which comes shining through in her Penguin books. She is a “prolific” author/illustrator and has published over 200 books!! She has 6 new books coming out in the next two years. She got her start in novelty/board books and has recently branched out into character-drive picture books with great success. 

What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?

I like to capture the innocence of childhood, when anything and everything can be your friend. A child has an innate love for things and a need to connect, even if they are inanimate. Children see the preciousness of things we grown-ups sometimes overlook… and I bring this character to life through Penguin.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Eric Carle, Gyo Fujikawa, and Dr. Seuss were my earliest creative influences even though I don’t illustrate like any of them! Each are completely unique: Carle’s is graphic and minimalistic, Fujikawa’s is soft and rendered, and Dr. Seuss is wild and imaginative! It made me realize that a story can be delivered in many ways. I love to play around with art style from one book to the next (unless it’s a series). I could name dozens more books that are completely unique—and collectively, they are my influence, and remind me that each book can have its own character, style, and delivery. But specifically, Hervé Tullet inspired my own Tap to Play, the art of Charley Harper influenced the artwork in Kaleidoscope and Pinwheel. I also LOVE the art of Jon Klassen, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, and Antoinette Portis. Groundbreakers—these talented people!

kal and pin

(Note: Pinwheel is unavailable currently, but is scheduled to be reprinted, and will be available again later this year/2014 due to early sell-out in 2013)

For Penguin’s art, though, it came internally from my childhood self. I wanted to draw Penguin in a way a child would. But at the time, I was illustrating all of my books with a mouse. This made it difficult to draw organically. So I purchased a Wacom tablet to allow myself to draw with a pen tool. Since I wasn’t familiar how to draw with this tool and tablet, my drawings were somewhat child-like. I decided to keep that “style” and it worked for Penguin.

What advice would you give to beginning authors and illustrators?

Make it your goal to CREATE, write, and grow, . . . and not to publish. Keep your eye on the ball… and that ball is to write or illustrate,… and publishing will follow!

Initially you were focused on novelty books and jumped into character-driven picture books with the Penguin series (which I love). Do you have any writing/illustrating goals that you would still like to accomplish?

Thank you (for loving Penguin!) I’ve enjoyed creating each and every one of my novelty books, but when I wrote Penguin, I was ready for a new challenge, and JUMP, I did! Since Penguin’s first book in 2012, I will have 9 character-driven picture books published by 2016 (so far)! There’s so many more I’d like to do, but I also aspire to write and illustrate for the early reader or even possibly the early chapter book market!

What were the seeds of inspiration for Penguin and Pinecone?

My first son was always very curious. As a toddler, he’d examine things very closely– like a fallen leaf on the ground. When he turned 4 or 5, he loved to collect things—like rocks, leaves, shells, and pine cones. He was very particular about the things he collected, and from his collections, there was always one that stood out. He’d take it, place it in a box, and ask for me to make it a blanket. A piece of fleece or napkin was enough. He didn’t ask for goggly eyes to attach to it or change it in any way. The way it was was simply enough. He’d name it… usually the name of the object, plus a “y” at the end. A rock became “Rocky,” a shell became “Shelly,” and so on. This sweet, nurturing spirit inspired Penguin’s character, though I didn’t know it at the time. It stayed with me, and when Penguin was born, I realized later that my son had inspired him!

What future adventures are in-store for Penguin?

Penguin is seeking to experience one of our favorite seasons—FALL—in his next adventure. And this time, he’s not traveling alone! Look for Penguin’s fourth book, Penguin and Pumpkin, in July 2014! This one focuses on the relationship of siblings. If you have a child with a younger sibling, this might be a sweet book to share.

Now some rapid fire questions for Penguin.

Who is your best friend?

I have made many best friends through my adventures! But among them, I have to say that Pinecone, Crab, and Bootsy are my very best of friends! (Learn how this happened in PENGUIN AND PINECONE, PENGUIN ON VACATION, and PENGUIN IN LOVE)

What is your snack of choice?

Fishies from the ocean, and marshmallows.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

The beach—where I met Crab.


If you weren’t a penguin what animal would you like to be?
It would be fun to be a boy dressed up in a wolf suit so I could cause mischief! That counts as an animal, right? I never cause mischief in real life.


Is Ms. Yoon a penguin-driver or laid back? 
She works very hard, but I get to do whatever I want… like bake.


Can you share with us your favorite selfie?


I like this picture because I am holding my own book!

Where can we can we follow you and Ms. Yoon?

You can follow me on my blog:
or my FB page:
and you can follow my Mama, Salina Yoon, on her FB page:
or learn more about her on her website:

Be sure to check-out Salina’s upcoming books.

FOUND (Walker Books for Young Readers), April 1, 2014
Penguin and Pumpkin (Walker Books for Young Readers), July 29, 2014
Tap to Play, (HarperCollins), Oct 7, 2014

Forthcoming in 2015-2016
Two additional Bear picture books, and one more Penguin book (untitled) with Walker Books for Young Readers

SY PB strip 2

I also recommend checking out these other fabulous interviews with Salina.

August 28, 2013

August Carnival of Children’s Literature


Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Children’s Literature! A big thanks to all the kidlit experts that contributed to this month’s carnival. Hope you enjoy reading the wonderful collection of posts. Be sure to check-in at next month’s carnival at Stacking Books.

Early Literacy


Summer travels may be over but exploring new countries doesn’t have to.

Reshama at Stacking Books reviews Dodsworth in Tokyo, the latest in the early readers series about two travelers about Dodsworth and his accident prone pet duck. She says “We loved this series because each book takes us to a new city and a new adventure.” Previous travels include New York, Paris, and Rome.

Want to learn about Australia mammals and read in that Aussie voice? Check-out Susan from The Book Chook‘s round-up of Australian themed posts. Learn about wombats, koalas, possums … and find out what a mozzie is.

Next we have two books for kids getting back to school and learning.

Erik from Kid Books Rating recommends Maisy’s First Clock. He says it’s “for any parents looking to teach their kids how to tell time on a traditional clock, this is a good start …” The book has movable hands too!

Catherine from The Cath in the Hat reviews Joe and Sparky Go to School. She says “with kids schlepping on their backpacks and heading back to school, this beginning reader is sure to ease their load and put a smile on their face.”


Esther, blogger from Teaching Authors, discuss her inspiration for TXTING MAMA TXTING BABY and shares the latest research on the effects of texting on literacy and writing, as well as information on the “touch-screen generation.”

Here at Flowering Minds, I reviewed Chick-o-Saurus Rex.  A book with heart and comical, colorful illustrations sure to delight any child who thinks he isn’t big enough to be strong and brave.

Zoe from Playing By the Book has a fun interview with mother-daughter/author-illustrator team Shirley Hughes and Claire Vulliamy on the launch of their new series for independent readers ages 6-8. Dixie O-Day: In the Fast Lane is the first book.

Kerry from Picture Books & Pirouettes provides a list of her latest round-up of dance and movement themed books.



Brenda from proseandkahn reviews MG novel Texting the Underworld, a story involving a banshee and a scaredy cat middle-school aged boy, Conner. Brenda says it is a book that will make you laugh and cry at the same time. The book weaves in death mythology of a variety of cultures, as well as Irish myth/ folklore.

Alex from Randomly Reading reviews Nasreddine, a retelling of an old Turkish folktale with a moral that still holds true in today’s world.

Margo from The Fourth Musketeer reviews Flora & Ulysses which she calls a “genre-busting story” about a lonely 10yr girl named Flora, a squirrel, and the neighbor’s vacuum cleaner named Ulysses. Seems like an eclectic bunch of characters and I cannot wait to read it and see how Newberry Award winner Kate DiCamillo weaves it all together. Margo also reviews Elvis and the Underdogs a hilarious story about Benji and his therapy dog, Elvis, whose whines and barks sound like English. She recommends the book for middle-grader readers and as a read-aloud.

Lisa from Shelf-Employed reviews the audiobook version of Three Times Lucky, a 2013 Newberry Honor Award Book. She says “despite some heavy-hitting themes, this modern-day, first person narrative is not contemporary realistic fiction, but rather a delightfully funny, quirky murder mystery, and the story of a loving family, best friends, and a close-knit community. And oh yes, there’s a hurricane.” Sounds like a thrill-ride of a story. She also has a link to an audio excerpt of the book. Good for ages 10 and up.


Becky from Tapestry of Words has a review by a 5th grader on his favorite book The Million Dollar Throw.

Natalie from Biblio Links has an interview with author Ammi-Joan Paquette, who shares ways that her new sci-fi young adult novel, Paradox, can be used with kids by teachers and librarians.

LH Johnson from did you ever stop to think and forget again? read several pieces discussing the nature of female characters in children’s literature, and discovered the startling truth about Anne from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five.



Jeanne from True Tales & a Cherry On Top reviews Write on, Mercy!. Jeanne writes this is “picture book biography of a female writer, Mercy Otis Warren who lived during the American colonial times. It wasn’t until Mercy was older that her literary life became known, with the publication of her three-volume history of the American Revolution.”

Anastasia from Booktalking says Stripes of All Types is a book that combines science and poetry!

Melissa from Here in the Bonny Glen while reading a series of Esquire posts on the Battle of Gettysburg found a surprising reference to her favorite Maud Hart Lovelace book Emily of Deep Valley.

December 13, 2012

Best Picture Books of 2012

Below is a list of some of my favorite picture books of the year. Click here for a printable version. Have a favorite book not on the list, please share the title in the comments along with a ‘best of category’ title. Feel free to create a new category.

Wishing you all a Happy Holiday Season!


Best Interactive Book:
Tons of Trucks
Author: Sue Douglas Fliess – Illustrator: Betsy Syder – Publisher: HMH Books
Ages Birth-4. Colorful, engaging concept book that will have kids pushing, pulling, lifting, swinging, and spinning as they learn about trucks.

Best Concept Book:
Author & Illustrator: Mies Van Hout – Publisher: Lemniscaat
Ages 2-5. Vibrant, beautiful pastel drawings of fish, each depicting a different emotional word. So simple, yet powerful.

Best Nearly Wordless Book:
Good News Bad News
Author & Illustrator: Jeff Mack – Publisher: Chronicle Books
Ages 2-5. Best friend mouse or rabbit go on a picnic and experience a series of good/bad events. With just four words the author does an amazing job expressing deeper themes of attitude and friendship while keeping it comical.

Best Read Together Book:
Oh, No George!
Author & Illustrator: Chris Haughton – Publisher: Candlewick Press
Ages 2-5. Great book to read at storytime. Kids will enjoy jumping in to finish sentences and trying to figure out what George will do next.

Best Friends Book:
Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always
Author & Illustrator: Tao Nyeu – Publisher: Dial Books
Ages 3-5. Imaginative, endearing set of stories of two underwater friends. Cute illustrations.


Best Book with Characters to Read Aloud or Act Out:
Duckling Gets a Cookie
Author & Illustrator: Mo Willems – Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Ages 2-5. Cute story on manners. Duckling gets a cookie by asking politely but pigeon isn’t happy and launches into a tantrum. Great fun reading pigeon in a loud, exasperated voice and duckling in a soft, sweet voice.

I’m Bored
Author: Michael Ian Black – Illustrator: Debbie Ridpath Ohi – Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Ages 3-8.  High energy book about a potato that thinks kids are BORING, and a girl sets out to prove him wrong. This book is blast to read out loud, be sure to put some spunk into it.

Best Sibling Book:
Another Brother
Author & Illustrator: Matthew Cordell – Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Ages 3-8: Davy’s life is turned upside down by not one or two but twelve little brothers.  A book every parent, older sibling, and younger sibling can relate too.

One Special Day
Author: Lola M. Schaefer – Illustrator: Jessica Meserve – Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Ages 2-4. Spencer is strong like a bear, funny as a monkey, but what will he become when his new sibling arrives? A sweet story that has minimal text that interplays well with the gorgeous illustrations.


Best Action-Packed Book:
The Three Ninja Pigs
Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz – Illustrator: Dan Santat – Publisher: G.P. Putnam Books
Ages 4-8. A rhyming, fractured-fairy tale that packs a one-two punch.

Best Fractured Fairytale Book:
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs
Author & Illustrator: Mo Willems – Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Ages 4-8. Clever, witty, completely original re-telling of a classic. Goldilocks walking into the dinosaurs house was no accident but a trap!

The Three Ninja Pigs (see above)

Best Christmas Book:
The Christmas Quiet Book
Author: Deborah Underwood – Illustrator: Renata Liwska – Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Ages 3-6. Cuddle up with your kids under a warm blanket and some hot cocoa. Discover the quiet joys of the holidays.

Chloe and the LionAHomeForBirdextra-yarn-coverCreepy Carrots

Best Squabble in a Book:
Chloe and the Lion
Author: Mac Barnett – Illustrator: Adam Rex – Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Ages 5-8. Quirky, innovative book about cooperation and the partnership between words and pictures in a book. The squabbling between Adam and Mac is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Best Classic Feel Book:
A Home for Bird
Author & Illustrator: Philip C. Stead – Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Ages 3-8. Reminiscent of classic Frog & Toad stories, filled with small adventures, wonder, and most importantly compassion and heart.

Extra Yarn
Author: Mac Barnett – Illustrator: Jon Klassen – Publisher
Ages 4-8. It may look like just another picture book, but it’s not. A beautiful tale on generosity.

Best Spooky Book:
Creepy Carrots
Author: Aaron Reynolds – Illustrator: Peter Brown – Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Ages 4-8. Twilight Zones meets the carrot patch, you may never look at carrots or anything else that is your “favorite” the same way again.

September 17, 2012

Cybils 2012

Q: What are the Cybils Awards?

The Cybils Awards are for children’s and young-adult books recognized as has having the highest literary merit and “kid appeal” by the book blogging community.

Anyone can nominate a book. There are a number of categories such as Picture Book, Middle-Grade, YA Fiction, Poetry, Ebook Apps, etc. Nominations are open from Oct 1st – Oct 15th. I will post again with links to this year’s nominations page.

The Round 1 judges come up with a shortlist of finalists by January 1, 2013, and the Round 2 judges review the picture books and chose the winner which will be announced on February 14, 2013.

To see winners from 2011 click here.

Q:Why I am excited about this?

Last year’s experience as a Round 1 judge for Early Reader/Chapter Books was an amazing experience on many different levels, learning more about the category, discussing books with other literacy professionals. I applied again this year and feel very honored to be picked as a Round 2 Judge for the Fiction Picture Books category !!! I am soooo excited, this is like a dream for me. As a Round 2 judge my job doesn’t technically start until January, but you can count on me to review my favorite picture books until I have to go into quiet mode. Please visit the awesome blogs of my fellow judges for Fiction Picture Books.

Round 1 Judges

Laura Given          Blog: LibLaura5 
Travis Jonker       Blog: 100 Scope Notes
Julie Jurgens        Blog: Hi Miss Julie!
Rebecca Reid        Blog: Rebecca Reads
Cheryl Sadler        Blog: Picture Book Lunchables
Danielle Smith      Blog: There’s a Book
Aaron Zenz            Blog: Bookie Woogie

Round 2 Judges (that’s me!)

Myra Bacsal          Blog: Gathering Books
Darshana Khiani  Blog: Flowering Minds
Joanna Marple     Blog: Miss Marple’s Musings 
Dawn Mooney      Blog: 5 Minutes for Books
Jen Robinson       Blog: Jen Robinson’s Book Page 

Fiction Picture Books Chair – Pam Coughlan    Blog: MotherReader

We are looking forward to seeing what books you nominate, so start making your lists as nominations open October 1st!


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