The Toothless Tooth Fairy

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Title: The Toothless Tooth Fairy

Author: Shanelle Hicks

Illustrator: Anca Delia Budeanu

Publisher/Year: Mirror Publishing/2014

 

Author Shanelle Hicks and illustrator Anca Delia Budeanu have created a dazzling fairy story, in their picture book The Toothless Tooth Fairy, that could easily rival any fairy book on the market today. Their book is filled with brilliant illustrations that depict seven lovely and ethnically diverse young tooth fairies who have come together to take part in the Miss Tooth Fairy Smile Contest. For fairies who place much importance on teeth, a smile contest certainly seems fitting.

One tooth fairy in particular, Bella, was known for her beauty and her kindness. All of the other fairies thought for sure that she would win. But one jealous fairy, Zelda, maliciously causes Bella to lose a tooth. With a missing tooth, Bella no longer feels beautiful, so she sets off to find a tooth. Her three attempts to borrow a child’s tooth fail and Bella returns to Cloud Nine defeated and depressed where she meets Zelda who brags about what she’s done and how she will win the contest. But instead of being angry or being upset that she won’t win the contest, Bella feels sad for Zelda and because she is a kind fairy, gives Zelda a hug. Her magical hug transforms Zelda’s heart and she becomes beautiful too, on the inside and the outside.

What I like best about The Toothless Tooth Fairy is the message that true beauty comes from a kind heart. The message is not preached, but rather it is woven into a sweet and entertaining story that kids (especially young girls) will enjoy.

Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

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Title: Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

Author/Illustrator: Nata Romeo

Year: 2014

Nata Romeo’s stunning children’s concept book, Alphabet Wildlife A To Z, introduces young readers to the 26 letters of the alphabet accompanied by corresponding animals.

I’m truly impressed by Nata’s watercolor and pen and ink illustrations, which are visual feasts for the eye. Some are bursting with color while others are wholly black and white. Most are a mix of both color and black and white, but all of them are unique, lively, and beautiful to look at. My favorites include the bird on the “B is for Bird” page and the cat that sneaks its way in at the very end of the book. Nata’s choice to use the image of the lion for the front cover was a good one. It’s attention grabbing and gorgeous.

While Alphabet Wildlife A To Z will help children learn the alphabet, I believe the book will stimulate artistic creativity in children as well. Kids are going to want to draw their own animals surrounded by fun and dramatic backgrounds, just as Nata has done, and I think that’s awesome!

Meet the Finalists: Lauri Fortino

Lauri Fortino:

I was featured today on the MeeGenius blog!

Originally posted on MeeGenius Blog:

Lauri Fortino

Meet Lauri Fortino, author of “Dinosaur Tag”

View original 302 more words

The Gentleman Bat

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Title: The Gentleman Bat

Author: Abraham Schroeder

Illustrator: Piotr Parda

Publisher/Year: Ripple Grove Press/2014

 

The Gentleman Bat is a spectacular debut for picture book publisher Ripple Grove Press. From the amazing front cover all the way to the satisfying conclusion, I was completely mesmerized and drawn into a bygone era filled not with people, but with gentleman and lady bats. The text is fluid, fun, and fantastic to read, and is complemented by beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations. 

Join the gentleman bat as he takes a stroll along cobblestone streets dressed in his finest attire and ready for a night on the town.

The gentleman bat, with his gentleman’s cane,

went out for a walk one night in the rain.

He meets his lady friend and the two head to the town square where a band is playing. She accepts his offer to dance.

He spun her around and dipped her down low;

she giggled and laughed and kicked up her toe.

Could there be a romance brewing?

Their hearts fluttered wistfully as he departed,

and made his way back to his house where he started.

The Gentleman Bat is a lovely story that will entrance both children and adults. And if you are not a fan of bats, this picture book just may change the way you feel about the oft-misunderstood creature of the night. The Gentleman Bat is available for pre-order now and is due out October 1. Congratulations Ripple Grove Press!

The MeeGenius Author Challenge

 

 

I am thrilled to be a finalist in the 2014 MeeGenius Author Challenge! MeeGenius is a digital children’s book publisher that offers hundreds of picture eBooks via the MeeGenius app which is available for download to all the major operating systems and devices. MeeGenius creates enhanced eBooks that captivate young readers by sporting “read-along word highlighting, rich illustrations, and engaging story narration”.

I am one of ten finalists. In September, a winner will be selected who will receive a cash prize. Regardless of who wins, all of the finalists stories will be published in digital format and available at www.meegenius.com. Click on the MeeGenius logo at the top to see all of the finalists. And stay tuned to find out when my story Dinosaur Tag will be available and if I win the contest!

Swooning Over Swag (or Christmas in July)

I count myself lucky to know some really terrific people. And one such person is my colleague and friend Brian Abbott. Brian is the coworker who went to the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Conference back in January and brought me back several ARCs. (Read more about that by clicking Here.) A few weeks ago, he attended the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas and he came back bearing swag, and lots of it! From posters, to prints, to magnets, and even CDs, they were giving it all away at ALA. And Brian gave a bunch to me! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But his generosity didn’t end there. He waited in line and managed to grab me a signed copy, yes, a signed copy of Caldecott Medal winner Brian Floca’s book Locomotive! (Read my review of Locomotive Here.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, that’s definitely sweet, but the most unique item Brian brought back was a seven-page, full-color booklet that was given out to attendees of the Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet. Brian was invited to attend! (Okay, push down the author envy.) The booklet is so cool; it even has a pop-up in it! Swoon.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Brian, you’re awesome! To learn more about adult mystery novelist Brian Abbott, check out his site, The Poisoned Martini, and look for his debut novel Death On Stoneridge, coming soon.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

I’ve been wanting to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for quite some time. I finally got the chance to go this past weekend. So, with my sister Linda acting as navigator, I drove over 200 miles and 3 1/2 hours along the New York State Thruway to Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful day Sunday, perfect for a road trip. And though we were on a highway, we passed through some very scenic areas with rolling tree-covered hills and picturesque valleys. We even crossed the Hudson River. 

After many miles, two rest stops, and two toll booths, we finally reached the museum with no trouble. Although, I almost drove right past it until I spotted this gorgeous sign marking the entrance.

The building and grounds are beautiful. But you really have to go inside to experience the wonder of the museum. They have three lovely galleries exhibiting artwork from several picture book artists. For our visit, they showcased the art of Simms Taback, Harriet the Spy (the book turns 50 this year), and What’s Your Favorite Animal (a book featuring art from many well-known illustrators, including Eric Carle himself). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No photography was allowed inside the galleries, of course, but the museum offered other opportunities for picture-taking.

 

The museum also has a wonderful library filled with picture books (they also do story times there), an auditorium (for films, lectures, plays, author/illustrator visits), an art studio (where all ages can be creative and crafty), and a bookshop/gift shop (I was like a kid in a candy store). All that was missing was a full-service cafe, though they do have a vending machine and plenty of places to sit and eat inside and outside (in a lovely orchard) if you choose to bring a picnic lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister and I had such a good time. I hope to visit again sometime in the near future. If you are a picture book lover, I highly recommend it. And while you’re there, don’t forget to use the restroom; you won’t regret it!

Yes, this is a bathroom stall!

Why I Self-Published & What Works by Tabitha Grace Smith

If you are curious about self publishing, then you will find author Tabitha Grace Smith’s article fascinating. She has some excellent advice for authors who are considering self publishing. She also explains why she chose the self-publishing path over traditional publishing, what’s involved, and how she makes it work.

Why I Self-Published & What Works
by Tabitha Grace Smith

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 9 years old. I chose my college, my career (I work in social media marketing), and my hobbies because of this passion for writing. Mostly I had a desire to write adult novels, but when my first niece was born I desperately wanted to write kid’s books. Books had a huge impact on me and I wanted to share that with my nieces (who are now 6 and 7). The idea for my first book came from my cats, who seemed to love sitting on the edge of my bathtub, but never wanted to go in. I wrote Jack the Kitten is Very Brave, a book about a cat who loved being a pirate, but was afraid of water.

I read a lot about the book publishing industry. From my research I knew that picture books are incredibly hard to break into as a first-time writer. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to get published and miss the years where my book would be perfect for my nieces. That sense of a deadline was a huge deciding factor in self-publishing.

Self-publishing has become less of a stigma in the past couple years, but there still is a stigma and anyone who wants to self-publish needs to understand that. I had a lot of questions when I first went about publishing Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and several people immediately assumed that it wouldn’t be a good book if I did it myself.

When it came to choosing how to self-publish I did a lot of research. I wanted a POD (Print on Demand) service so I didn’t get stuck with boxes and boxes of books. I also have a lot of friends who live all over the world so I wanted a service where they could order without paying a TON of money. CreateSpace (which is part of Amazon) wound up being the perfect solution. Just a note here: you shouldn’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to a self-print book service. Beware, there are a lot of scams out there. You’ll never make that money back.

There are four HUGE skills you need to self-publish:
1. Design Skills
2. Art Skills
3. Editing Skills
4. Marketing Skills

Design Skills. Thankfully, I have some design skills. My first job was doing graphics and layout. A big part of doing a book yourself is understanding how to format and set up a layout. You’ll need to understand things like pixels, dpi, how to create a multi-page PDF, page bleeds, etc. If you don’t know these things there are a ton of free classes online to get the skills. Another option is to hire someone. Please make sure to pay for the service. Formatting and layout for a book is a lot of work and it takes a good amount of time.

Art Skills. I have zero art skills. I can draw some pretty awesome stick figures, but that is not good enough for most picture books (Okay, one of my books I drew myself, but it’s pretty doodle-y). For the artwork I had a dear friend, Mindy Lou Hagan, who I had seen a ton of art from. I loved her style and we worked together on the layout and images. I have to be completely honest here, a lot of the unsuccessful self-published children’s books I’ve seen have terrible artwork. Do yourself a favor and search for a good artist. If you have no artistic talent yourself or you have no artistic friends, search sites like Deviantart.com. Again, pay your artist. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when artists don’t get paid. Artwork is at least 50% of the selling point of a children’s book. Mindy and I agreed on payment before we started the project. Have that all in writing.

Editing Skills. Picture books need as much (if not more) editing as a novel. Have as many people as you can read your book before you publish it. I found out early on that people will catch different things, so multiple editors really helps. Also, try and have at least a couple friends who will be 100% honest with you (i.e. don’t just have your mom read it). Have the editors edit the text, have them edit the text placement, and have them edit the story. Read the story out loud to kids and check their enthusiasm level (if you have no kids, ask a local school librarian if you can come in and read your book). Edit. Edit. Edit. A lot of first-time writers are way too attached to their writing. As a result, they’re not open to edits and changes. Don’t be that person. Listen to what your editors say and take it to heart if they’re right.

Marketing Skills. So you have a book. It’s uploaded. Fantastic! No one is going to buy it. This is the huge con for self-publishing. There are no sales without your marketing. Absolutely none. There are thousands of books out there that someone can buy for their child. If they don’t know about your book, they will not buy it. You’re going to need to sharpen your marketing skills. Learn how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) effectively, learn how to publicize without being spammy (check the authors that you love and see how they do it), offer a print copy of your book to some bloggers (check to see how much interaction they have on their blog), pitch yourself to local schools and offer a free author visit, ask folks for help to get the word out, and find places you can sell your book (local fairs, garage sales, charity events, etc.). Cross-promotion with other blogs and authors is your big friend here. I think 90% of the time people usually buy self-published books because they love the author.

There are a couple other things you need to learn like self-employment taxes, keeping track of expenses, etc. Find a tax accountant who can help you with that if you start making some good money off your book.

{From Tabitha Grace Smith’s book Machu the Cat is Very Hungry}

Another option for publishing and getting the funds you need to publish is crowdfunding. My latest book, Jack the Kitten is Very Sleepy, I am funding through Kickstarter. This is a great way to get fans in on helping make the book and pay for the artwork. If you’d like to check it out, it’s here: bit.ly/SleepyJack. If you like pirates and cats, it may be the perfect book for you!

Kickstarter is a huge commitment; I often tell people it’s like a full-time job. So if you’re thinking about crowdfunding, I really suggest backing a couple projects first to see what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve been very happy with how well my books have done so far. I’m no Stephen King of picture books, but I’ve sold a good amount. Copies of my books are all over the world. I get awesome letters from kids who have read my books. Best of all, my nieces love my books and I get to read them to them whenever I visit. School visits are probably my favorite. Once, I was walking the hall of one school as the kids were going home, one of the little first graders got all excited when she saw me and waved like mad and said, “Hi, Author!”. It was a really fun feeling.

My big take away from the whole experience is that self-publishing and doing it well is a lot of work, but it’s a ton of fun too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and give help to others whenever you can. Another thing that really helped me was giving my book away. A lot. Ultimately, I wanted kids to read it, not to become rich. One time I was at a car wash fundraiser and I saw a very sad little boy. I happened to have copies of my book in my bag and I gave him one. His face lit up like it was Christmas. That was well worth buying the book myself and giving it away. After all, what good is a book if no one reads it?

Well said, Tabitha!

Tabitha Grace Smith is a professional geek, blogger, writer, web designer, podcaster, social media expert, and strategist. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Moody Bible Institute and an M.A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She’s written five children’s books including, Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, which were based on her real life cats. You can find them on Amazon or over at MachuandJack.com. She also wrote a book for reluctant readers called Mary Lou Wants to Be a Big Star and a book about dealing with bullies called Everyone’s Mean, Except When They’re Not. Both are available on Amazon. Her latest book, Jack the Kitten is Very Sleepy is currently being funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

Find her on Goodreads or online at tabithagracesmith.com.

{The real Jack and Machu with their books}

{Tabitha Grace Smith's latest picture book}

{Tabitha Grace Smith’s latest picture book}

When You Are Blue (A Squishy Blueberry Tale)

 


Sharing information about great causes is something I love to do here on Frog on a Blog, particularly if the cause is related to picture books and helping children. So, I am thrilled to introduce Squishy Blueberry, a charming character created by author and illustrator Amanda I. Greene, who is also the founder of D’inkling Publishing. Amanda’s goal, through her Squishy Blueberry book series, is to encourage children to look within in order to discover a wealth of confidence, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, qualities that we all possess but might need a bit of help bringing to the surface.

Amanda’s first book, Reflections of a Blueberry, is already available and is beaming with beautiful, whimsical, brightly colored illustrations and lyrical, rhyming text. To bring her second book to life, When You Are Blue, Amanda is seeking our help through a PUBSLUSH campaign. Please click on the cover image above to learn more about Amanda’s worthwhile project. You can watch a video, read about Amanda’s vision, make a contribution (and earn some great perks), or simply spread the word. You can also go to the Squishy Blueberry site: http://www.squishyblueberry.com/ for more information and oodles of “squishy blueberry” fun. 

I think a little bit of Amanda herself can be found in the character of Squishy Blueberry who follows his heart and his dreams, notable endeavors indeed. Good luck, Amanda!

{Image from the When You Are Blue PUBSLUSH campaign page}

 

The Change Your Name Store

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Title: The Change Your Name Store

Author: Leanne Shirtliffe

Illustrator: Tina Kugler

Publisher/Year: Sky Pony Press/2014

Summary: Wilma Lee Wu doesn’t like her name anymore, so she decides to try on some new names at the Change Your Name Store and is transported all over the world to new cultures.

The Change Your Name Store is a fantastic first introduction to new cultures for the youngest armchair travelers. It’s super fun to read aloud, which is good because you may be reading it over and over again. Its rhyming text not only rolls off the tongue, but also presents some rather unusual names  from around the world that kids will find fascinating. 

The energetic illustrations perfectly depict a precocious little girl, Wilma Lee Wu, as she imagines herself with a new name and experiences life in new cultures. I especially like how her dog accompanies her to all the new places and even becomes a poodle when they arrive in Paris. I also like the wraparound cover with the beautifully detailed buildings. There’s a library on the back!

I can relate a bit to Wilma. When I was growing up, I didn’t like my name either. I even approached my mother once about changing it to Lorraine or Lorena (I know, they’re not that much different from my name, silly me.). It was, of course, a phase I was going through, and it didn’t take long for me to appreciate and embrace my name, just as Wilma does.

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