Yesterday marked the ONE MONTH mark before my debut picture book, THE GREAT HOLIDAY COOKIE SWAP is released! It is super exciting, but also makes me nervous– I feel like I should have done a lot more preparing and setting up events, signings, blog tours, etc. Doing this during a pandemic just seems strange, so I can only hope things will fall into place! Remember, if you haven’t yet preordered, I recommend you order from my friends at “The Briar Patch” — if you use this link and order before the release date, I will sign your copy!
One of my favorite things to do in libraries and bookstores is to check out where “my book” would live– for me that means the “K” section. So in that spirit, today’s book reviews are all amazing new books from my future “K” neighbors. Enjoy!
Title: Papa brings me the World
Author/Illustrator: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (May 5, 2020)
The “gist”: Lulu’s Papa is a photographer who is gone a lot traveling around the world, but he brings her stories and artifacts– and a promise of taking her along someday.
My favorite part: As a map nerd, I loved the map at the end showing all the places her father had traveled along with the items he brought from each location.
My response as a reader: I loved how Lulu was connected with her father and missed him, but seemed to understand and appreciate his job rather than getting angry he was gone. I can imagine this book would resonate with others with parents who are away for work.
My “take-away” as a writer: This book is a great example of the good ol’ “write what you know” adage. She is lucky to have had such an unusual childhood with such exotic places to write about, but deep down I believe everyone has a unique story to tell.
Title: Lone Wolf
Author/Illustrator: Sarah Kurpiel
Publisher/Date: Greenwillow Books; Illustrated Edition (May 19, 2020)
The “gist”: Maple is a husky, so she is constantly compared to a wolf. The book traces her soul searching adventure to decide who she is.
My favorite part: I adore the photo spread below, which couples perfectly with the text “Would Mom even hear her if she howled?” You are brought right into Maple’s perspective and it is clear that her human mom truly is her “Mom.” (As a dog mom myself, I can’t love this more!)
My response as a reader: I’m a sucker for a good dog story, and this was an interesting twist on the dog/wolf comparison since it had a bit of education tucked in (loved the chalkboard diagrams.
My “take-away” as a writer: The pacing in this story is particularly good as Maple transitions from location to location and each spread gives us a new idea to consider. It reminds me to revisit my manuscripts and think hard about the purpose of each page turn.
Title: Fly, Firefly!
Author: Shauna Keller
Illustrator: Ramona Kaulitzki
Publisher/Date: Sleeping Bear Press (March 1, 2020)
The “gist”: A firefly gets a bit lost and flies out over the beach where it falls into the water and is rescued by a girl and her aunt.
My favorite part: The illustrations here are my favorite– they really capture the glow and dance of fireflies!
My response as a reader: I loved how this was based on a real story recounted by Rachel Carson — the backmatter is very well done!
My “take-away” as a writer: Like Lone Wolf, this story has great pacing and a great balance between sparse text and beautiful illustration. Even more notable with Keller’s work is that it also rhymes, so each line has to do a lot of work!
Title: Danbi leads the School Parade
Author/Illustrator: Anna Kim
Publisher/Date: Viking BYR; Illustrated Edition (July 7, 2020)
The “gist”: Danbi is from Korea and doesn’t understand a lot of what is happening on her first day of school, but she ultimately wins over the class!
My favorite part: As a language teacher, I was charmed by the contrast between her writing her name in Korean at the beginning and ultimately learning to write it “in English.”
My response as a reader: There are a lot of stories about kids who are insecure on the first day of school, but this one is particularly endearing because of the language and cultural differences (again, some of that may be a bias on my part as a language teacher!)
My “take-away” as a writer: Like Jenny Sue Kosteki-Shaw’s Papa Brings me the World, above, this is really a personal memoir, so it prods me yet again to stop and consider: what story do *I* need to tell about myself? Still working on that one!
Author: Emily Kilgore
Illustrator: Zoe Persico
Publisher/Date: little bee books (August 25, 2020)
The “gist”: Cora is anxious and “whatifs” weigh her down at every turn– how will she be successful at the piano recital?
My favorite part: I love the fact that Cora makes a mistake at her recital. I am a pianist myself, and we all make mistakes– the important thing is to keep going!
My response as a reader: My son suffers from anxiety and he will love this book. It is particularly fitting for these times when we all suffer from the weight of the “whatifs” more often than we’d like!
My “take-away” as a writer: I was fortunate enough to read a very early version of this manuscript when it was entered in a contest. I loved the concept back then and I knew it had real potential. The fun part for me is seeing how radically different this story is from the version I read four years ago. It was good then, but it is SO MUCH BETTER now! Believe it or not, that version didn’t even have a piano recital, which now seems the PERFECT vehicle for Cora’s fears, and to be honest, the original was way over word count. I say this because it is a good reminder that as good as we might think our story is, it may just look very different once it finally gets published. And once you find the right changes, you will wonder why you could ever have thought it should be any other way!