January 23, 2015

Candlewick Press – Best of Picture Books Giveaway (US & Canada)

PB Prize Pack

TIME Magazine recently published their 100 Best Young Adult Books of All Time and 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time lists. Candlewick Press is offering a chance to win four of their titles which appeared on the Children’s Book list!


I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Told completely in dialogue, this delicious take on the classic repetitive tale plays out in sly illustrations laced with visual humor– and winks at the reader with a wry irreverence that will have kids of all ages thrilled to be in on the joke.

$15.99 U.S./$18.00 CAN – ISBN: 9780763655983



Journey by Aaron Becker

Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

A Caldecott Honor Book (2014)

$15.99 U.S./$18.00 CAN – ISBN: 9780763660536


Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Michelle Knudsen’s disarming story, illustrated by the matchless Kevin Hawkes in an expressive timeless style, will win over even the most ardent of rule keepers. An affectionate storybook tribute to that truly wonderful place: the library.

$$16.99 U.S./$20.00 CAN Hardcover – ISBN: 9780763622626
$6.99 U.S. /8.00 CAN Pbk – ISBN: 9780763637842


We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Imagine the fun of going on a bear hunt-through tall, wavy grass (SWISHY SWISHY!); swampy mud (SQUELCH SQUELCH!); and a swirling whirling snowstorm (HOOOO WOOOO!) – only to find a “real” bear waiting at the end of the trail! For brave hunters and bear lovers, a classic chant-aloud.

Puzzle Book: $19.99 U.S./$23.00 CAN * ISBN: 9780763670733
Board & Plush Boxed Set: $11.99 U.S. /$13.00 CAN * ISBN: 9780763619794
Sound Novelty Book: $19.99 * ISBN: 9780763677022

Thanks to Candlewick, you can enter to win all 4 books! To enter leave a comment below telling us your favorite Candlewick picture book!

The giveaway is open to the US and Canada only, and ends Friday, January 30, 2015 at 9pm PST.

Candlewick online: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

January 16, 2015

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia


Happy New Year!! Hope you all had a wonderful, relaxing holiday break.

I am ecstatic and overjoyed to bring you today’s book review! I first read this beautiful manuscript back in 2012, when Miranda and I were in the same 12×12 critique group. (haven’t heard of 12×12, click the link and find out more about this awesome picture book community. registration for 2015 is currently taking place.) If you ever have the opportunity to listen to Miranda speak/teach .. GO! She is an entertaining speaker and chockful of information. You will be seeing a lot more books with her name as she has FOUR more picture books coming out in the next two years! Now onto the review.


One Plastic BagTitle: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia

Author: Miranda Paul (interview)
Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Publisher: Millbrook Press (February 1, 2015)
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Africa, Environment, Activism


Isatou shakes sand off her papers. Another plastic bag floats by, and she tucks her things inside.

The torn bag is useless now. She drops it to the dirt, as everyone does. There’s nowhere else to put it.

Synopsis (from One Plastic Bag website):

Inspiring story of five women who creatively dealt with their village’s plastic trash problem. Despite limited resources and ridicule, Isatou and her friends persevered for more than a decade, eventually realizing economic empowerment through their recycled plastic purse project. The book also includes bonus information such as a Wolof language glossary, timeline of actual events, and photos of the women of Njau.


Visit the One Plastic Bag teacher’s resource section for tons of activities and information.

Gambia Facts Worksheet, Dangers of Plastic & What You Can Do resource guide, Downloadable Word Search, Bookmark

The coolest was the video demonstration on how to recycle plastic bags into a purse!

Why I Like This Book:

A wonderful book that shows how one single ordinary person, Isatou Cessay, made a difference. The reason I say ordinary is because initially Isatou had the same views as everyone else, which was that plastic bags are good for carrying things and when they break just  throw them on the ground. But when the plastic bag pollution became a problem for the villagers – goats eating plastic bags and dying, mosquitoes nesting in the pooling water – it was Isatou who did something about it. Together with the help of other women from the village they found a way to recycle the piles of plastic bags into purses they could sell in the nearby city. An empowering message for all young readers, that they too can make a difference.

The book is an engaging read as the Gambian world springs to life by awakening the readers senses via the sounds of the Wolof language “Ndanka”,  smells of Gambian food “bubbling peanut stew” and the sights of village daily life. The illustrations are collages of colored paper, paint, and even plastic bags. Checkout the interview at Seven Impossible Things for more sneak peeks into Ms. Zunon’s artistry.

If you would like to learn more about Gambia, this book, or the purses check out the One Plastic Bag website. I had the opportunity to see one of these purses at a writing retreat this summer. It was quite amazing.


This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

December 9, 2014

One Big Pair of Underwear Blog Tour – Writing with Kids by Laura Gehl

Yesterday I reviewed Laura Gehl’s engaging, wonderful picture book One Big Pair of Underwear. Today is my pleasure to have her stop by the blog and discuss ways to encourage and inspire kids to write.

A big thank you to Darshana for hosting me on this stop of my One Big Pair of Underwear blog tour.



Darshana asked me to talk about writing with kids.  Many authors agree that a big part of becoming a good writer is simply to write as much as possible.  Most of us have about a zillion bad stories to write before we write any good ones.  So here are three techniques I love for getting kids excited about writing:

  1. New Ending: Take a familiar story, whether a fairytale or a favorite picture book, and write a completely different ending. (Note: for parents, this is a good opportunity to take the annoying characters in the books your children have forced you to read over and over and kill those pesky characters off.  Or at least orchestrate a move to Antarctica.)
  2. Character Swap: What happens when Elephant and Piggy go into the Three Bears’ house and find cooling porridge? What happens when Cinderella visits a farm and finds cows with a typewriter?  Kids will love transporting characters from one favorite story to another and writing about the chaos that ensues.
  3. Editors’ Club: For older writers, have each kid type up her or his story and save as an MS word file. Then ask kids to swap stories and use “track changes” to edit one another’s manuscripts.   For kids who have email addresses, Google Drive is another great option to allow kids to comment on one another’s stories.

With the holidays coming up, you might also want to consider gifts that encourage kids to write:

  1. Very inexpensive: Blank lined notebooks with new pens and pencils
  2. Slightly more expensive but still cheap: Blank books without lines for writing and Some are simple blank books such as these and some come with stickers, markers, and word prompts, such as these.  You could also throw in some pens that write in multiple colors, which are lots of fun.
  3. Splurge: There are several companies that will take your child’s illustrated story and bind it into a real hardcover book. One company is Illustory, but there are other options as well.


If you’ve already done your holiday shopping, you can teach kids to fold their own “books” out of regular paper.  Check out one method for this here.

I wrote another post recently with additional ideas for getting kids excited about writing.  You can check out that post at http://mrcolbysharp.com/.

Happy writing!


Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, as well as four upcoming picture books: Hare and Tortoise Race Across Israel; And Then Another Sheep Turned Up; Peep and Egg: I’m not Hatching; and Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick or Treating.  Her own kids love writing stories…including, recently, The Maze of Death (K, age 10); The Gangster (N, age 8); The Presidents (S, age 6); and The Rainbow, the Butterflies, and the Giant

December 7, 2014

One Big Pair of Underwear

onebigunderwearTitle: One Big Pair of Underwear

Author: Laura Gehl
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Publisher: Beach Lane Books, 2014
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Counting, Sharing

Opening Lines:

ONE big pair of underwear.
TWO brown bears who hate to share.
ONE bear wears the underwear.
ONE bear cries, “That isn’t fair!”

Synopsis (from Amazon website):

What’s one thing that two bears, three yaks, four goats, and six cats have in common?
They hate to share.
But look out—here comes a pack of twenty pigs ready to prove that sharing makes everything twice as fun!


– Kindergarten Common Core Curriculum Guides for Math and English Arts.
– Printable activity sheets

Why I Like This Book:

Let me ask what is NOT to love about this book … Nothing.

  • I love that this is more than just a counting book from 1-10. It is has an underlying theme of sharing!
  • I love the front cover definitely an eye-catcher.
  • I love all the silliness: big underwear, cooking hippos, pigs on a slide, etc.
  • I love the use of poetic devices to create engaging and sometimes tongue-tied text.
  • I love the colorful, engaging, humorous illustrations of Tom Lichtenheld. The art was rendered in pencil and digitally colored.

This is a great book to use in any preschool classroom, storytime, for lap-reading.

Check-out Laura Gehl’s guest post on writing with kids!

Picture Book Analysis:

It’s been a while since I have done an analysis, but this is a great book to apply some of the tools I recently learned from the Pacing Picture Books to WOW class and the Lyrical Language Lab.


Spread 2


Spread 3


  • WORDS: The title of “One Big Pair of Underwear” is a memorable catchphrase. Definitely a ‘hook’.
  • REPETITIVE STRUCTURE:The first ten spreads have a repetitive structure that acts as a pacing marker.
    • Line 1 – Introduce number ‘N’ and desired objects
    • Line 2 – Animals (N+1)
    • Line 3 – ‘N’ Animals get the desired object
    • <page turn>
    • Line 4 – Reaction of the extra animal that didn’t get the desired object
  • PAGE TURN: Due to the repetitive structure above the reader KNOWS there is going to be some silly sad animal after each page turn.
  • WHITE SPACE: When showing the sad animal, it is just the one animal in that illustration which really makes the reader ‘feel’ the animal’s loneliness in being left out.
  • POETIC DEVICES: Rhyme, Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance. While this isn’t a ‘rhyming’ book (doesn’t have consistent meter) it does make use of end rhyme.
    • Rhyme – yaks.. snacks.. packs, seals .. wheels
    • Alliteration – young yaks, small sacks .. salty snacks
    • Assonance – black backpacks
    • Consonance – seals steal
November 15, 2014

SCWBI SF/South Bookstore Night at Hicklebee’s

scbwi This past week I attending the SCBWI event at our awesome independent children’s bookstore, Hicklebee’s. A lovely, casual mixer where members got to meet each other surrounding by the latest and greatest in books. You can check-out some of the photos on the SCBWI SF/South Facebook Page.

During the second hour of the two-hour event, Valerie and Ann, owner and manager of the store gave loads of tips on how to get your books onto the shelves, doing author visits, and more. I have tried to capture some of the tips and tidbits below. Hope you find them helpful!


Valerie Lewis and Ann Seaton from Hicklebee’s


  • When requesting a bookstore to review your book to get it onto their shelves please provide the following: Your Name, Title, Publisher and a Copy of the Story (for self-published folks a final copy, for traditional published folks an Advanced Reader or F&G). Be prepared to wait 3-4 weeks.
  • For people who are self-published, Hicklebee’s has set up a program which you can read more about here.
  • On average publishers pay $200-$300 to the bookstore to host an author event. This is needed to cover the overhead of setting up the event and promotional activities the store has to do.
  • For debut authors some publishers are setting up meet-and-greet dinners between the debut author and key people in the book community (bookstore buyers, librarians) to get the buzz started.

Tips for a successful author event

  1.  Be FLEXIBLE. There is no way a bookstore can predict whether there will be 5 kids at your event or 25. (My Takeaway: Prepare your main presentation for your target audience, but then have back-up plan ideas – for more people, fewer people, younger aged crowd, older aged crowd)
  2. Having people at your book event is the “icing on the cake”. They stressed that all the promotional work (newspapers, name on website, social media) to make you and your book known has already taken place. So do not feel discouraged if there is a low turn-out for the event. They provided an example where they only sold four books the day of the event, but at the end of the month they sold twenty-four copies for that author.
  3. Stop at the peak! Try to gauge your presentation such that you are leaving your audience wanting more. This the point before adults start playing with their iPhones and when kids start getting restless and fussing about. They did advise that figuring out the “peak” is something that comes with practice in front of an audience.
  4. Be Engaging! Figure out ways to be interactive with the audience. They spoke about Tim McCanna’s engaging event for Teeny Tiny Trucks. Since he is a musician he performed songs, had coloring sheets, and other activities to keep the little tikes attention.
  5. Other things that helps Hicklebee’s to build great promotional material is getting the following items from the author: multiple author photos (different photos), book and author blurbs, links to professional reviews. They mentioned a pair of authors that made a flyer.
  6. Keep crafts simple! Already have the pieces cut out, since you don’t want kids standing around because there weren’t enough scissors. (My Takeaway: It’s hard to predict how many people will show up. Also kids aren’t patient, for that matter neither are adults. :-) )
  7. Check out storytime or other author events at the bookstore to garner ideas.
  8. Courtesy tip – when promoting your author event at said bookstore, link back to that bookstore and not some other place.

Thank you Kristi Wright (SCBWI Volunteer), Ann & Valerie (Hicklebee’s), Tim & Naomi (Regional Advisers) for putting on a wonderful event!

Do you have any author event tips to share? Leave a comment and let us know!


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