John’s Reading List For Writers…“Writing Picture Books” by Ann Whitford Paul

The end of this week will mark the sixth week since submitting “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens” to a publisher in England named Chicken House, Ltd. for their “Open Coop” submission day. (The six-week mark is when we will know whether we have been selected or not.) While waiting, I thought it might be good to share a few books which were helpful to me during the writing process. These may be helpful to those of you who are writers hoping to be published.

Although the title may make you think this book is not for you unless you write children’s picture books, there is valuable information here for any writer, regardless of intended audience or preferred genre. “Writing Picture Books” by Ann Whitford Paul taught me a great deal about writing any kind of book. (There is even a section on poetry which Amelia found very helpful and inspiring.)

Her book helped me consider how the elements which make a good picture book also make a good novel. For example, instead of the two-page spread, there is the chapter. The things which make you want to turn the page of a good picture book are the same things which make you want to turn the page of a good novel.

As I was writing, “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens,” if I couldn’t imagine a chapter as one or more two-page spreads, I knew something was probably wrong with it. If there were big sections which couldn’t be illustrated, I began to question their necessity. This wasn’t because I wanted to write a picture book, but because I wanted to write a book that would “draw” pictures in the minds of my readers and keep them turning the pages.

“Writing Picture Books” provides many important general keys to writing a story of any kind and for any audience. In fact, when reading many of its passages, it is unlikely you would realize you were reading about writing children’s picture books. This may not be a book to add to your shelf at home, but if you are a writer or an aspiring writer of any type of book, it will likely give you some helpful advice and may be available at your local library.

Never underestimate the power of a picture book! Even as adults, we can find our favorite picture books from childhood sneaking into everyday conversations. I’ll bet you remember “The Little Engine That Could” and “I think I can, I think I can.” One of my own favorite expressions lately is, “I’m just a Pokey Little Puppy today.” (Of course, even pokey little puppies can have naughty days!)

Wouldn’t it be great to be the author of a book that created such lasting memories for your intended audience? No matter their age? No matter their preferred genre?

Each post shares a glimpse into my journey as a writer and illustrator. Every “Like,” “Follow,” and “Comment” is truly appreciated!

Gracie’s Summer Reading List…“Molly’s Story” by W. Bruce Cameron

Molly’s Story by W. Bruce Cameron

This book was not a “quick sell” for my chickens because it isn’t about chickens or eggs. But amazingly, it does have a “chicken connection” which caught their attention. Let me explain.

Each of the books in this series is about a different dog with a special purpose. Molly has the ability to detect cancer in people before they even know they have it. She is a cancer-sniffing dog.

While writing this book, W. Bruce Cameron turned to a close friend, Dina Zaphiris, who trains dogs with this special ability. She had not been able to have a dog of her own when she was growing up because her family had chickens. She trained her family’s chickens to do tricks and to come when their names were called. When she grew up, she got her own dogs and became a certified animal trainer.

That part caught the attention of my chickens. If someone who knew about chickens was somehow connected to this book, then that was okay with them. After we finished this story, they have decided they wouldn’t mind it if we eventually get a dog as long as it likes chickens and will guard them.

“There were many parts of the story that made me nervous and worried about Molly and her little girl named CJ. I didn’t like the mother, Gloria, or her boyfriend, Gus. I was really mad at Gloria for turning Molly in as a stray dog and pretending she didn’t know Molly. That was not true, and she should not have done it. Gus grabbed CJ’s arm and wouldn’t let go. Molly defended her. The scariest part of all was when CJ and Molly ran away from home for days and days. Well, I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, but I will say there were a lot of very intense parts.” – Gracie

“I thought it was interesting how Molly liked being with her little girl even inside the house. I’m not sure what that is like because chickens are more independent, and we like being outside whether our people are inside or not. We don’t really perform tricks to get treats, though we certainly don’t look down on those who do. We think, and rightly so, laying an egg every day is all of the performing we should ever need to do. Molly saved someone’s life in this story, and that was my favorite part. Molly was very smart and very brave.” – Bessie

“I could really relate to Molly because she had a difficult time figuring things out. There is a lot to figure out in life, and I need all of the help I can get. This book didn’t really help me understand people any better, but it did help me to understand dogs better. If we ever get a dog to watch over us, I will know better what to expect. They seem a lot easier to understand than people.” – Pearl

“I liked that Molly is the one who was telling her story herself. Maybe one day I will tell my own story, or maybe a story about my best friend Amelia. I do wish the book had explained how Molly learned to write. Did she use a pencil and paper? Did she use something like a typewriter? I think I will need to know how to do that. There is typing called ‘hunt and peck,’ and I think chickens would be very good at it.” – Emily

“One of the best parts is when Molly writes ‘People really do very strange things.’ That is so very true! I’m glad Molly said that. I know people aren’t lucky enough to be chickens (or dogs), but maybe people will take the hint.” – Amelia

“Molly’s Story” is suitable for ages 8 to 12 and grades 3 to 7 and is available through Barnes and Noble along with other books in this series such as “Ellie’s Story” and “Bailey’s Story.” Each book is about a different special dog. The overall theme of the entire series is “Every dog has work to do. Every dog has a purpose.” The price on the back of each book is $7.99, however Barnes & Noble is offering them for less. Summertime discount codes offer additional savings.

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing this book with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the link here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about reading. Children (and chickens) need to read and be read to, whether it’s what we write or not!

Gracie’s Summer Reading List…“What Do You Do With An Idea?” by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With An Idea?

As soon as I saw this book written by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom, I knew it would be a great book to share with my chickens. After all, it has an egg on the cover!

The gold seal is for an Independent Publisher Book Award. This book won a gold medal in the category “Children’s Picture Book (All Ages)” in 2014. It is still on the bookstore shelves because it is that good!

“The egg is adorable, especially because it has chicken feet for walking. For most of the book, it looked as if it wanted to hatch but wasn’t quite ready yet. I have lots of ideas, like being a ballet dancer, that aren’t quite ready for hatching yet. This book gave me more ideas and encouraged me to dream even bigger!” – Gracie

“The best part of this book is everything. I liked this book because I have lots of cooking ideas I’m hoping to hatch. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with my ideas for recipes, but this book helped me a lot. I think it would be good for anyone who has ideas.” – Bessie

“The crown on the top of the egg was fun because I like to wear hats too. I like the part of the book that said, ‘It wanted food. It wanted to play. Actually, it wanted a lot of attention.’ That’s just like me too! I have so many ideas. I have ideas I haven’t even thought of yet!” – Pearl

“The illustrations by Mae Besom are beautiful, absolutely beautiful. All of the birds flying are elegantly streamlined and are drawn with sweet personalities. I thought it was very clever how the illustrator always made the egg and whatever was near the egg colorful while everything else was dull and brown…until the exciting ending!” – Emily

“I like the beginning of the book best. It started off like this. ‘One day, I had an idea.’ That made my own best and most special idea pop into my head right away. So I had to see what happened to the idea in the book. My idea is to be the first chicken to fly to the moon and back.” – Amelia

This picture book is appropriate for anyone of any age. If someone has an idea and needs a little encouragement to see it through to the end, then this book may be for them.

At $16.95, this may seem a bit expensive for a picture book, however keep in mind this is an independently published book which can be slightly more expensive. The quality is very high for both paper and binding.

If you have an aspiring young person who dreams of one day changing the world for the better with an idea of their own, this is a perfect investment. It is a wonderful way of saying, “I believe in you and your idea.” This book would make a perfect  gift for holding onto and rereading while waiting for an idea to become a reality.

“What Do You Do With An Idea?” is available through Barnes and Noble along with several other similar titles by the same author and the same illustrator for less than the price on the back of the book. Summertime discount codes offer additional savings.

Just so you know, “My Life With Gracie” isn’t getting anything from sharing this book with you. We don’t collect anything if you click the link here. Some websites work that way, but for us, it’s about reading. Children (and chickens) need to read and be read to, whether it’s what we write or not!