Frankenbunny by Jill Esbaum + a GIVEAWAY!!!

Today I’m excited to have Jill Esbaum on my blog. Jill has written a slew of amazing picture books and Frankenbunny is her latest release. It is a delightful book that I have read many, many times since it arrived in the mail.

Jill has agreed to have a conversation about Frankenbunny. But first, the synopsis:

“You know monsters aren’t real, right?”
Brave is easy in the sunshine. Brave is easy near Papa. But can Spencer the Bunny learn to be brave ALL the time—even when his big brothers try their best to scare him?
Spencer the Bunny’s big brothers ALWAYS frighten him with scary monster stories. And the most terrifying beast of all is Frankenbunny, with his crusty fangs, flashing red eyes, and ginormous paws. But when Spencer discovers that his brothers made the whole thing up, he hatches a plan to turn the tables on them and conquer his own fears . . . forever.
Any child who has ever worried about a monster in the closet or felt scared in the dark will love this humorous story about learning to be brave.

And this nice snippet from Kirkus Reviews:

“A good choice for younger sibs terrorized by older ones or for kids who need a reminder that monsters aren’t real.”

Now for the inside scoop from Jill 😀

Penny: I’m impressed at how expertly you captured the universal childhood fear of monsters. Even though as children, we’re told they aren’t real, and logically we don’t “think” they are real…all it takes is a sibling (or a kid in the neighborhood or a kid at school) to raise doubts. I have three sisters and I can tell you that there were plenty monster stories creeping around our house. So I can relate.

Jill: Oh, man. Me, too! My older brother was soooo good at making me rethink truths … like the fact that I KNEW there was nothing in our basement at night that wasn’t also there during the daylight hours. But ask me to go down there alone after dark? No way! Not after the time he sent me down there for something, then flipped off the light, slammed the stairtop door, and called a spooky, “Wooooooo…” to freak me out. Forever after, I was afraid something would grab me down there, even in the daytime. When I HAD to go to the basement, I’d get whatever I needed (quickly) and be halfway back up the steps, congratulating myself for surviving, when it would occur to me that somebody/something could still reach BETWEEN THE STEPS to grab one of my ankles. My feet could not carry me up fast enough! I went around with skinned shins more often than not.

Penny: Frankenbunny is a genius title. When I think of bunnies, I think “cute and cuddly,” which is the exact opposite of monsters.  Because of that, the thought of a monster bunny seems unconventional and funny. It’s a title that drew me in and made me want to read the book and find out more. So how/why did you decide that the big, bad, crusty-fanged, ginormous-pawed, red-eyed monster would be a bunny?

Jill: Thanks, Penny. I’ve wanted to write a “scary” story for a long time. But every time I tried to write one with human kiddos, it got TOO scary. Finally, I decided to try one with the most harmless creatures I could imagine – sweet little bunnies. That’s when the title came to me. A bunny-monster, I hoped, would be terrifying to bunnies, but not so scary to kids.

Penny: One of the hardest things about writing for children is making the story relatable. These lines are some of my favorite lines in the book!

“Brave is easy in the sunshine.”
“Brave is easy around Papa.”
“Brave is hard in the dark!”

They’re perfectly placed in the story and are seriously relatable. Also they bring so much “heart” to the story. I’m curious. Did these lines come to you in early drafts, or did you find your way to them as you revised?

Jill: Thanks, Penny. Those lines didn’t come to me until many, many revisions into the story, when I realized it needed a framework, and yes, more heart. Honestly, I worked on this one for a couple of years before I got to a manuscript that felt right. Older versions were submitted and rejected. Rejection: the great revision motivator.

Penny: Along the same lines … “heart” is the thing that brings readers back to a picture book for multiple readings. It’s the elusive element that every writer strives for. Do you have a way of assessing your manuscripts for the “heart” factor? Or any tips for those writers who struggle with bringing “heart” to their stories?

Jill: Yikes, good question! Heart is a tough story element. It isn’t something you can just stick it in somewhere. It needs to be infused throughout the story. The best way to find a story’s heart is to really put yourself into your main character’s head. You have to feel the emotions s/he’s experiencing. Get your protagonist’s false belief/fear/yearning in line, and heart will arise organically.

Penny: The illustrations in this book by Alice Brereton couldn’t be more perfect. They’re incredible and fit the tone of the text to a tee. Most of the time the editor at the publishing house picks the illustrator. Was that the case with Frankenbunny? Did you see early sketches or did you see the art later in the process? What was your reaction when you saw the art?

Jill: Yes, my editor picked Alice to illustrate this story. When I saw her early sketches I was overjoyed – and, of course, trying to picture them in color. I could do that, sort of, by looking at Alice’s work on her website. She has an uncanny ability to capture whimsy and darkness simultaneously. Exactly what FRANKENBUNNY needed.

Penny: Now that you’ve all heard about Frankenbunny I’ll be you are thinking what I’m thinking . . . Frankenbunny would make a great Christmas gift for a child!! And speaking of books for children, one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been immersed in the world of children’s books is that many people aren’t familiar with newer titles. I have friends that are constantly asking me for picture book suggestions for their children or grandchildren. In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be fun for you to spread some cheer by recommending current books by other authors that could be wrapped up and put under the tree … along with Frankenbunny, of course 😀
I know there are a bunch of great ones, so how about giving us five recommendations?

Jill: My current favorite is Creepy Pair of Underwear. For other favorites, just read back through my posts on my group blog, Picture Book Builders. 

Penny: Wow! If you read through Jill’s blog posts over at Picture Book Builders you will find plenty of book recommendations.
Thanks for coming by and telling us more about Frankenbunny, Jill.

Jill: Thanks, Penny. I always love visiting with you!

GIVEAWAY! Lucky readers! You can win a copy of Frankenbunny. All you have to do to be in the drawing is leave a comment below by midnight December 21st. (CST)
Those who enter must have a US address.

You can learn more about Jill Esbaum and her wonderful books on her website. http://www.jillesbaum.com/

A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt Guests: Patricia Toht and a Class of First Graders + Giveaway!

poetry friday buttonThanks to Jane at Raincity Librarian for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup today. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon

Hello Friends! Just In case you haven’t visited before, let me tell you a little about A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. My great nephew, Landon (now an eighth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on one Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests sharing poetry and art in beautiful collaborations. I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.

**GIVEAWAY! Before you view today’s collaboration I wanted to let you know that Patricia has generously offered a signed copy of Pick a PIne Tree. Today’s collaboration is based on an excerpt from this beautiful book and I have a feeling you’re going to want get your hands on it! I already have my hands on a copy and I’m in love with it! Hug! Hug!
**All you have to do is leave a comment below by December 1st at midnight CST. A winner will be randomly selected. Those who enter must have a US address.

About the Story: Part of the magic of the Christmas season stems from the traditions that families and friends take part in every year: hanging up stockings; putting lights in the windows; and, one of the most important of all, picking out and taking home the Christmas tree. With style and warmth, debut author Patricia Toht and Jarvis, the author-illustrator of Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth, evoke all the rituals of decorating the tree — digging out boxes jam-packed with ornaments and tree trimmings, stringing tinsel, and, at long last, turning on those twinkling lights. Joyously drawn and rhythmically written, this celebration of family, friends, and the holiday season is as merry as the tradition it depicts.


Look What Reviewers Have to Say! (Notice the starred review from Kirkus 😀 )

“Pick this delightful story for a Christmas storytime, for library collections, or for family reading around the Christmas tree.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Holiday spirit crackles in Toht’s warm, step-by-step recounting of how humble stately pines transform into shimmering Christmas trees.”
Publishers Weekly

And now it’s my pleasure to share a creative collaboration from . . .

Patricia Toht and a First Grade Class

From Patricia: When Penny invited me to do a post for “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt,” I hoped to be able to nab some young relatives to collaborate with me. But our family is spread around the country, and we wouldn’t be gathering together until after the holidays.

Then came an invitation from the American Writers Museum in Chicago to host a story time featuring my new book, Pick a PIne Tree. How exciting! I asked Penny if students might work instead of relatives, and she agreed.

Ms. Jackson’s class from Ogden International School arrived in high spirits. Pick a PIne Tree tells the story of a family turning a pine tree into a Christmas tree, so we brainstormed about decorations. The kids had loads of ideas for ornaments, and I told them about my original text:

“My editor in England didn’t like one of the ornaments,” I said. “Which one do you think it was?”
The students made their guesses before I revealed the answer: the cookie boy.
“What?” they said. “Why?”
“She wanted me to use gingerbread man,” I said.
But gingerbread man had too many beats and ruined the rhyme, I explained. I sent a note back to the editor.
“The readers will see in the illustrations that cookie boy is a gingerbread man,” I insisted.
“No cookie boy,” the answer remained.
I was grumpy about it until it finally dawned on me what the crux of the problem was – Brits don’t use the word cookie; they say biscuit!
“How about biscuit boy?” I suggested.

I then read this passage from the finished book:

“What’s missing?” I asked.
“The cookie boy!” the kids called out.
In the end, I explained that I left out gingerbread man/cookie boy completely, and the book is really no worse for it!

Following story time, the students made their own Christmas trees. They used markers to decorate foam cutouts and tied on a gold ribbon for hanging. Little bags of jewels went home with them to apply later (so they wouldn’t fall off in transit).

The trees were super cute. And, in the end, it tickled me pink that nearly every student included a cookie boy on their tree!

The Students’ Artwork Inspired by Patricia’s Book

Many thanks for Patricia and the students for this heartwarming collaboration!


 

Meet Patricia: Patricia Toht once owned a children’s bookshop called Never Never Land before turning a love of books into a love of writing. She is the author of All Aboard the London Bus and Pick a Pine Tree, as well as numerous poems in children’s magazines. She lives with her family outside of Chicago and very soon will be setting out with them to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Vote in the First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook-Off Plus 5-Book Giveaway!

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Exciting things are happening in the magical land of fairy tales!! Read on to find out about the First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook-Off! Find out how to cast your vote to help choose a winner. Find out out to get your name in a drawing for a chance to win one of five copies of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale.

Win one of five copies!

Notice you can get your name in the drawing more than once!!!

Since William (of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale) mistakenly turned fairy tale ingredients into delectable dishes and cooked up several new happily-ever-afters, the magical land of fairy tales has gone wild for cooking.

For weeks they binge-watched cooking shows and then decided to have a cooking competition of their own. They threw around some ideas and the First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook Off was born.

They named Goldilocks as judge since she has a very picky palate. The competition became very heated when the Big Bad Wolf gobbled Little Red Riding Hood’s dish right out of her picnic basket before Goldilocks had a chance to sample it.

Also, the witch from Hansel and Gretel built a gingerbread house that might’ve won the competition hands down had she not been trying to lure the competing chefs into her room-sized oven. When Goldilocks told her that she was disqualified, she became boiling mad and stomped off shouting, “I’ve been burned!”

Despite the trouble, Goldilocks was able to narrow it down to the three final chefs. Now it’s up to you to read about their entries and vote for your favorite chef by commenting below.

Not only will a First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook Off winner be named after the votes are tallied, but your vote will land your name in a drawing for one of five signed copies of A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale. Voting will end at midnight CST on November 30th so be sure to comment before then or your coach will turn into a pumpkin and . . . oh wait . . . that’s another story. **But if you don’t vote by then you won’t be a part of choosing the First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook Off winner. You know you want to be a part of this happily-ever-after!

Want your name in the pot two times? Then visit my page in the SCBWI BookStop and sign my guest book! Just click HERE to go my page. My guest book is right under my photo. While you’re there browse around. There are so many great books to view!

Want your name in the pot a third time? Share this on Twitter with one of the two prepared tweets below. I’ll be tracking hashtags. Just copy and post to Twitter! Easy Peasy!

Fairy Tale Cook-Off! Fairy Godmother vs Giant vs Little Pig! Plus 5-Book #GIVEAWAY! #SCBWIBookStop #fairytalecookoff http://wp.me/p22d5X-20T

Vote: Fairy Tale Cook-Off! Little Pig? Fairy Godmother? Giant? And 5-Book #GIVEAWAY #fairytalecookoff #SCBWIBookStop http://wp.me/p22d5X-20T

Now for the finalists of the First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook Off!

Little Pig

Little Pig’s entry was inspired by his house which was blown away! 

Straw House Treats

INGREDIENTS

  • 18 oz white chocolate
  • 3 cups pretzel sticks, broken into pieces (as if the Big Bad Wolf has blown down the stick house)
  • 2 cups salted peanuts
  • 1½ cup Craisins

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place white chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir and repeat until melted and smooth. (You can also melt chocolate in a double boiler.)
  2. Stir pretzel sticks, peanuts, and Craisins into chocolate.
  3. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto wax paper.
  4. Cool and enjoy!

Fairy Godmother

Fairy Godmother has outdone herself and she didn’t even use a wand! 

Pumpkin Patch Pudding

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box Instant Chocolate Pudding
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 packages Oreos
  • 1 package Green Sour Straws Candy
  • 1 package Pumpkin Candies

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Make the pudding by following directions on the box (whisk together pudding mix and 3 cups cold milk).
  2. Use a food processor to crush the Oreos until smooth.
  3. Layer the Oreos and chocolate pudding in a clear cup. Oreos, pudding, Oreos, pudding, and top with Oreos.
  4. Top with a Green Sour Straw candy cut in half (the pumpkin vine) and three pumpkin candies.
  5. Serve with a spoon!

Giant

Giant came through in a BIG way with his entry! 

Giantly Delicious Cloud Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 9 oz. angel food cake (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 ½ cups of Cook Whip
  • 6 snack size Kit Kat bars, chopped
  • Cocoa powder, optional
  • Chocolate syrup

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cut angel food cake in half horizontally
  2. Stir chopped Kit Kat pieces into Cook Whip
  3. Spread Cool Whip, Kit Kat mixture on bottom half of cake
  4. Lay top half of cake on top of mixture
  5. Dust with cocoa powder if desired
  6. Slice and serve with chocolate syrup drizzle

Now it’s your turn to vote and help pick the winner of the First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook Off! Leave your comment below with your choice—

  • Little Pig
  • Fairy Godmother
  • Giant

*****Remember Three Ways to Get Your Name in the Drawing For One of Five Copies of
A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale.

  1. Leave your choice of winner below.
  2. Leave a comment in my SCBWI BookStop guest book found right below my photo. Find that by clicking HERE.
  3. Tweet one of the prepared tweets below! Easy peasy!

Fairy Tale Cook-Off! Fairy Godmother vs Giant vs Little Pig! Plus 5-Book #GIVEAWAY! #SCBWIBookStop #fairytalecookoff http://wp.me/p22d5X-20T

Vote: Fairy Tale Cook-Off! Little Pig? Fairy Godmother? Giant? And 5-Book #GIVEAWAY #fairytalecookoff #SCBWIBookStop http://wp.me/p22d5X-20T

I hope you’ll spread the news of the First-Ever Fairy Tale Cook Off far and wide! I think it should go viral, don’t you?

Thanks so much for coming by!!!

 

 

Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew: A Piratey Post With Author Henry Herz + GIVEAWAY!

I beg of ye to tell me . . . what be more fun than dinosaur pirates?

Nothing I tell ye! Nothing!

So if ye care to have fun then lend an ear. Henry Herz be having a new tale! CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW just be released on August 1st!

Ye must sail on down to yer local bookstore or yer library and nab a copy! It be a treasure!

From Kirkus Reviews: The dinosaurs may be extinct but let’s hope dinosaur pirates keep on sailing for arr-ternity.

I be thinkin’ ye have questions about how such a tale came to be. Well jump aboard cuz I be askin’ Henry just that! And he be answerin’.

Me: Ahoy there, Henry. I see ye’ve written a clever tale o’ dinosaurs and pirates. How in the seven seas did ye come up with such an idea?

Henry Herz: I thought it would be fun to do a mashup – a combination of unlikely elements. In fact, my original title was DINOSAUR SPACE PIRATES! But it became clear as I worked on the manuscript that mashing up three ideas was one idea too many. Kids love dinosaurs, and they love pirates. So, they must REALLY love a book featuring dinosaur pirates, right?

I also wanted to do a book with the theme of thinking outside the box. Captain Rex and his dinosaur pirates sail the seven seas in search of buried treasure. But whenever they hit an obstacle—like a giant shark or pea-soup fog—the crew members are quick to say they can’t overcome. To this, Captain Rex always glares with teeth bared and says, “CAN’T YE?” And, somehow, the crew always comes up with a clever solution. Being clever is always preferable to being eaten, I always say.

Me: Well sink me! Ye be a clever buccaneer! Once ye had yer clever idea, how did ye steer yer tale in the right direction? Did ye experience rough seas or were it smooth sailin’ the whole way? (As a fellow buccaneer I be used to rough seas when spinnin’ tales. Sometimes I feels as if my tales may end up in Davy Jones’s Locker!)

Henry Herz: Great question. And it reminds me of the terrific saying: “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” That’s certainly true for writing. I checked my computer to see how many versions of the manuscript I wrote. 27. That said, a score of revisions is not that uncommon (for me, at least) for perfecting a picture book. Certainly, my editor at Sterling was a pleasure to work with – no rough seas there.

Me: Blimy! Ye had to be bloody bullheaded to tell yer tale. Seems there be no hornswagglin’ nor dabloon-bribin’ bookmakers into publishin’ yer tale. And since there be no hornswagglin’ do ye have a bit of advice for other mateys who be wantin’ to their tales to be books like yers?

Henry Herz: I’m going to parse from my blog post on this topic at https://henryherz.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/be-an-animal-to-write-a-picture-book/

  • Be a honey badger. Have no fear. Don’t be scared to put words to paper. Don’t flee from constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid of rejection. They all line the path to traditional publication. Honey badger don’t care, and neither should you! Get outside your comfort zone.
  • Be a dung beetle. Be tenacious, even on crappy days. Becoming published isn’t easy. But it won’t happen if you stop trying. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a one step. Revise, revise, revise. But remember that perfect can be the enemy of good enough. At some point, you need to submit!
  • Be an armadillo. You need to be thick-skinned and learn to roll with the punches. Understand that a publisher’s or agent’s rejection isn’t personal, but it is highly subjective. Many great works of literature were rejected repeatedly before being published, so you’re in good company.
  • Be an ant. No man is an island, and no ant is a bridge. Teamwork is your best friend. Take advantage of critique groups to hone your craft. Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to develop a support network. Leverage social media to connect with fellow writers. You’re not alone.
  • Be a hagfish. Be flexible enough to incorporate helpful feedback. But feel free to ignore feedback that doesn’t resonate with your gut. Follow the rules, but recognize that they can be broken when the result is a success. Drew Daywalt’s The Day the Crayons Quit is a picture book with over 1,000 words and inanimate characters. But it’s also a New York Times bestseller.

Me: Ye not only be clever . . . ye also be wise. Speaking of clever and wise I be thinking ye must have other tales that be sailin’ into bookstores in the future? Will ye share a bit if ye have such tales?

Henry Herz: Well, there are three picture books my agent is shopping around right now:

TOP OF THE HEAP – Barnyard animals debate who is the best animal on the farm. Each makes their claim, even Dung Beetle. In response to the others’ laughter, Dung Beetle takes a vacation. Eventually, they all recognize even tiny Dung Beetle’s important contribution. That’s how he rolls.

NEVER FEED A YETI SPAGHETTI – Two young goblin siblings throw their mom a monstrous birthday party. Despite their best efforts, things go further and further awry, thanks to the yetis. One should never feed them spaghetti.

ALLEN & ALIEN – Like many boys, Allen doesn’t like to eat his veggies, pick up his toys, or take baths. But he loves playing with his alien toys. When an indefatigably inquisitive alien drops in to study humans, the alien’s enthusiasm (even for the mundane) is infectious. Allen learns an important lesson about appreciating one’s blessings, while his parents are pleasantly surprised at their son’s new alien behavior.

And these three books are scheduled to be published next year:

HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican Publishing) – Ever wonder why two of a squid’s ten arms are longer than the others? A selfish squid is cold, so he swipes other animals’ clothing. Will he learn it’s wrong to steal in the end? This modern fable demonstrates you reap what you sow. It’s Kipling’s HOW THE RHINOCEROS GOT HIS SKIN meets Klassen’s THIS IS NOT MY HAT.

GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE (Schiffer Publishing) – Not all the foods in the refrigerator get along like peas in a pod. Bad Apple and Second Banana are at the root of the problem. The vegetables are steamed. Good Egg suggests his friends try different responses to the bullies, but his tactics don’t bear fruit, at first. Only by using his noodle does Good Egg save their bacon.

ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius) – Alice lives in the dreariest boarding school in England. She pours her love and attention into caring for her little garden and its denizens. Unknown to her, these include a large caterpillar, gryphon, and a talking white rabbit. When Alice is in trouble, the magical creatures come to her aid. Love, it turns out, is magical. GARDEN FAE is A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE meets ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

Me: Well shiver me timbers! That be a slew of tales ye be sharing with the world!

For more about Henry‘s books and blog interviews, see www.henryherz.com.

GIVEAWAY!!!

Ahoy! There be treasure! Ye won’t need a treasure map. But ye must walk the plank and outsmart the sharks to win! Har! That be a pirate joke. All ye really have to do is leave yer comment below. Leave yer comment no later than midnight (CDT) Tuesday, October 3, 2017. A winner be randomly chosen. ***You must be in the United States to win.

Details: Enter for a free chance to win an original signed painting by Benjamin Schipper, illustrator of the picture book, CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW, by Sterling Publishing. The painting of Kyle the Ankylosaurus pirate is roughly 8.5″ square, and was created with Holbien Acryla gouache and Prismacolor pencils on Arches Cold-pressed illustration board. It’s suitable for framing and mounting in any dinosaur pirate-loving kid’s room.

Incredible Prize

Thanks to Henry for sharing with us today and huge congratulations on CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW!


Meet Henry: Henry Herz writes fantasy and science fiction for children. He and his sons wrote MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES (Pelican, 2015), WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY (Pelican, 2016), MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS (Schiffer, 2016), LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH (Pelican, 2016), CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW (Sterling, 2017), GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE (Schiffer, 2018), HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican, 2018), and ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius, 2018).

Happy Book Birthday to Matt Forrest Esenwine and Flashlight Night!

Happy Book Birthday, Matt!

Congratulations on your debut picture book, Flashlight Night

I read hundreds of picture books every year and Flashlight Night is one of my favorite reads. Not just one of my favorite reads of the year, but one of my favorite reads of all time. It’s a magical book and as soon as I finished the last page, I flipped back to the front to read it again. There is so much to take in between the words and the art. I think the blurb on the book jacket may sum up what I’m trying to say.

“What happens when you combine a flashlight, a storyteller, and the dark of night? You find MAGIC, WONDER, and a life-changing ADVENTURE.”

It’s obvious from the reviews that I’m not the only one who felt the magic.

“The verse is incantatory…a simple idea that’s engagingly executed” – School Library Journal

“Delicious language…ingenious metamorphoses” – Starred Review Kirkus Reviews

“[Esenwine and Koehler] don’t just lobby for children to read—they show how readers play” – Publisher’s Weekly

“Imaginative…fantastical” – ALA Booklist

“An old fashioned, rip-roaring imaginary adventure” – The Horn Book

I imagine those of you reading this post can’t wait to open the pages of this book and experience the magic for yourselves. Once you’ve experienced it, you may be curious like I was. Where did this magical book start? What sparked the idea? Guess what? I have someone “in the know” here today! Lucky us!

So Matt, I would love it if you’d share the inspiration for Flashlight Night and “shine a light” on your writing process, from idea to completed manuscript. Tell us how you captured MAGIC, WONDER, and ADVENTURE in just 32 pages.

I have been asked by numerous folks about the inspiration for Flashlight Night , and I have yet to come up with what I feel is a decent answer. I know how the book came about – I’m just not sure why. It started off, simply, with me attending a local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) event in Massachusetts.

Back in August 2014, a number of local SCBWI members had gotten together at Kimball Farm in Westford, Mass. to hang out and chat over appetizers and drinks and as I was driving home, the idea of a flashlight “opening up the night” popped into my head. It was at least 10pm or so, and all I could see was what my headlights revealed…so I started thinking about what to do with the words in my head, and by the time I was home (and hour and a half later) I had the opening and closing stanzas pretty well nailed down.

The following week, I continued working on it – still not sure if it was a stand-alone poem or a picture book manuscript – and had completed the first draft within just 6 or 7 days. By the time it was done, I knew it was a picture book, albeit a very poetically-written one. (Of course, I continued tweaking it over the course of the following 2 or 3 weeks, because I wanted it to be as polished as possible before sending it out to my editor, Rebecca Davis at Boyds Mills Press.

As I write primarily poetry, I deliberately made use of alliteration and internal rhyme, unusual end rhymes, and fun words that would not only lend themselves to fleshing out the story and imagery, but would perhaps stretch a young person’s vocabulary.

There were actually several things I deliberately did, which I wasn’t sure were going to help or hinder me:

  • The word ‘flashlight’ is used only once, as the very first word.
  • There is no mention of any other characters – boys, girls, animals, names.
  • The main subject of the book (the flashlight) is inanimate.
  • Imagery was abundant, but often ambiguous.
  • The story arc does not follow any sort of formula, other than there is a loose narrative.

Knowing there was a lot of imagery in this manuscript, I tried to keep specific details out of the story, so an illustrator could have ample room to share in telling the tale. For example, in one scene I make reference to a “peculiar door” – and that’s all I say about it. I figured, I’d let the illustrator determine why it’s peculiar!

Click to enlarge.

In another instance, I describe a “vessel, tightly moored.” Again, that’s the only description I give – and although I had a pirate ship in mind, I was happy to let an illustrator make that call. (which Fred Koehler did!)

Click to enlarge.

Speaking of Fred, I can’t thank him enough for taking on this manuscript. He told me loved the classic feel of the text so much that he wanted to create a classic look to the illustrations – so this is his very first manuscript using traditional media. He drew all the illustrations by hand, inked them in, then scanned them into his computer to colorize them.

So every detail you see – from the dark, foreboding sky to the spooky, textured shadows – is painstakingly hand-drawn! (And as someone who has a minor in studio art, it just boggles my mind to know Fred did all that freehand – and just wait til you see the fur on the giant bear.)

I hope everyone enjoys the book, and thank you so much, Penny, for shining your spotlight on “Flashlight” today! And congrats to you, on your “Cooked-Up Fairy Tale!”

Thank you for taking the time to share your process, Matt. It was very interesting and the attention you gave to Flashlight Night makes me love it even more!

A couple of things!

***Goodreads giveaway! You could win one of TWENTY COPIES of Flashlight Night. Starting at midnight 12:00 am PT, TODAY, Tuesday, September 19 (publication day) you can enter! The contest will wrap up at 11:59 pm PT on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

To learn more about Flashlight Night be sure to check out the stops on Matt’s blog tour.

Friday 9/15                  Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Monday 9/18               KitLit Exchange/ Loud Library Lady
Tuesday 9/19               Penny Klostermann Book Blog
Wednesday 9/20        Unleashing Readers
Thursday 9/21             KidLit Frenzy
Friday 9/22                  Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Monday 9/25               Librarian in Cute Shoes
Tuesday 9/26               Nerdy Book Club


Meet Matt: Over the years, Matt Forrest Esenwine has had several adult poems published in literary journals and magazines around the country, and in 2012 his poem, “Apple-Stealing,” was nominated by the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) for a Pushcart Prize. Meanwhile, his children’s poetry can be found in numerous anthologies including J. Patrick Lewis’ The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015), Kenn Nesbitt’s One Minute till Bedtime (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016), and Lee Bennett Hopkins’ School People (Boyds Mills Press, 2018), as well as “Highlights for Kids” magazine. His picture books include Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) and Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018, co-authored with Deb Bruss).

 

Winner of Marsha Diane Arnold’s Baby Animals Take a Bath!!!

Marsha Diane Arnold joined me on my blog on September 1st to collaborate with her four-year-old granddaughter Gráinne. It was a delightful collaboration featuring poetry and art! If you missed their collaboration, you can see it HERE.

Not only did readers get to enjoy the collaboration but they also had a chance to win a signed copy of Marsha’s newest board book, Baby Animals Take a Bath. All they had to do was leave a comment on the blog post by midnight September 8th to be in the drawing.

And we have a WINNER!

The signed copy of 

Baby Animals Take a Bath 

goes to

 

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes!!!

 

Congratulations, Michelle!

Thanks, Marsha!

 

Winner of THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT!!!

We

have

a

WINNER!!!

And

that

winner

has

won

a

copy

of 

by

Susanna Leonard Hill!!!!

I do believe we actually have two winners because these two are always together!

Congratulations

to

Genevieve Petrillo and Cupcake! A-rooooo!

If you missed the post about about THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT, you can go right HERE and read my interview with Susanna. If you weren’t a winner just click on the book cover and you can buy your own copy 😀