Friday, April 18, 2014

Blog Tour for Claude at the Beach

Claude is no ordinary dog - he leads an extraordinary life!

In the third installment of Claude's hilarious adventures, Claude and Sir Bobblysock pack their bags and go on vacation to the beach. They rescue a man from a shark, win a sandcastle-building competition, and hunt for pirate treasure. Of course, they make it back home just before Mr. and Mrs. Shinyshoes come home from work.

Buy the book/ borrow the book

Kirkus calls this early chapter book "hilarious", but what do our readers have to say? Follow along on the blog tour:

Monday 4/21-Blue Owl

Tuesday – Kid Lit Reviews

Wednesday- Chat with Vera

Thursday-Geo Librarian

Monday, April 14, 2014

Blog Tour for Beneath the Sun

Welcome to our first title for our April Blog Tour! We will be discussing Melissa Stewart's title "Beneath the Sun" (library).

This lyrical tour of a variety of habitats offers young readers vivid glimpses of animals as they live out the hot season under the blazing sun.
Journey from your neighborhood to a field where an earthworm loops its long body into a ball underground, and to a desert where a jackrabbit loses heat through its oversized ears. Beneath the Sun shows readers how animals survive the hottest time of the year.
Follow along with what our bloggers have to say:
Monday 4/14- Jean Little Library and Blue Owl
Tuesday – Geo Librarian
Wednesday- Kid Lit Reviews

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Printable CLAUDE Coloring Book Pages!

Question: What is the most fun thing in the world that doesn't directly include reading?

Answer: Coloring in the illustrations from your favorite picture book.

Before you start typing horrified comments, hear me out.

When I was in second grade, my school library was giving away old books. We all know, getting a free book is great any day, but this was no ordinary time...

This was in the glory days of gel pens.

You remember, right? Showing up to school with that rolling backpack filled with Lisa Frank folders and a 45,832 pack of gels... Yeah, the 90's were awesome.

Anyway, while I would normally cringe at the thought of defacing a book, these books were sad. Their plastic covers were yellowing, they were stamped with a scarlet DISCARD. I wanted to rescue them and make them beautiful again. So I adopted my orphan book specifically because it was filled with black and white line-drawing illustrations--perfect for coloring with gel pens.

You know which books also have excellent gel pen-ready illustrations?

While I wouldn't dare take a writing implement of any kind to the pages of Alex T. Smith's cheeky stories, I would make you printable coloring pages :) Yep, everybody's favorite posh pup is yours for the coloring.

Just click the link below, download, and color away! If you're feeling really ambitious, snap a picture and tweet it at us ( @PeachtreePub ).


Download your FREE printable coloring book pages from Claude at the Beach!

Pick up a copy of Claude at the Beach at your local bookstore, and visit Alex T. Smith's website to see his other fabulous work! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Making of The Grudge Keeper

Have you ever wondered how a story that begins as just black words on a white page is transformed into a fully illustrated picture book? 

I could lay out the logistics myself, but I thought you'd rather hear it from someone a little closer to the action. We asked the lovely and talented author (Mara Rockliff) & illustrator (Eliza Wheeler) of The Grudge Keeper to walk us through the process of creating a picture book from an original story with original art!

Let's meet them, shall we?

Mara & Eliza on the Collaborative Process

“Brimming with movement, a bounce here and there, billowing dresses and courtly shirts, Wheeler's lyrical drawings perfectly complement Rockliff's tale of forgiveness. This is a warm-hearted book to savor and read over and over again.” 
―Maureen Palacios, The Indie Next List

Have you two ever met in person?
E.W.   That’s a great story! Mara gave a shout-out to me in the middle of her Golden Kiteacceptance award speech at the 2013 SCBWI Summer Conference. We waved to each other, but it wasn’t exactly the right time for chit-chat. After the awards I went over to give her a hug and said a quick hello, but Henry Winkler was waiting behind me to talk to her. So that wasn’t exactly the right time for chit-chat either. I’m looking forward to a future chance to meet more fully.

Had you heard of each other before this project?
M.R.   Nope. But I definitely heard about Eliza afterward, when Miss Maple’s Seeds debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.

E.W.   Getting The Grudge Keeper manuscript was my first introduction to Mara’s work.

Who came up with the idea for the book?
E.W.   That’s all Mara!

M.R.   I did. There may be rare exceptions, but usually when a picture book has a separate author and illustrator, the author writes the story long before the illustrator gets involved. I think this is something that confuses kids (and maybe grownups, too) when they hear that the author “writes the words.” It’s probably more accurate to say the author makes up the story.

How did your manuscript end up at Peachtree?
M.R.   I actually wrote this story seven years ago! It was turned down by LOTS of publishers. Some of them said it was impossible to illustrate. J (I think they couldn’t picture how the grudges would look, which puzzled me…I originally pictured them as scraps of paper, although I love Eliza’s little scrolls.)

Anyway, The Grudge Keeper floated around for quite a while until it washed up on a welcoming shore. My editors at Peachtree, K.L. and J.A., really “got” the story and helped whip it into shape.

Did you pick Eliza to illustrate your story? Or is that someone else’s job?
M.R.   No, Peachtree gets all the credit for finding Eliza—although, as it happens, we’re both with the same agency (Andrea Brown Literary Agency, which specializes in superb agents named Jennifer). So once we heard Eliza was considering the project, MY Jennifer was able to tell HER Jennifer how much we hoped she would say yes!

Okay, so Eliza, how did you get involved with the project?
E.W.   My agent, Jen Rofe, emailed the manuscript to me, and she knew it was right up my alley. It was fun to find out Mara was another Andrea Brown Literary agent’s client – it’s like we’re cousins of a sort.

Mara, did you get veto power if you didn’t like the artistic direction the project was taking? Or did you just let your baby go?
M.R.   Well, that’s a little hard to answer, because this is my first book with Peachtree and I loved the artistic direction the project was taking. I did get to see sketches and felt welcome to share my reactions, but I wouldn’t call it “veto power.” I see my job as mainly to spot places where the art and text conflict, and then decide whether to change the text or suggest a possible change in the art.

For instance, in the wedding scene, I’d written that Big Otto spilled the punch, but Eliza drew Lily Belle between Otto and the punch bowl. That didn’t hurt the story, so I just changed the text. But in the same scene, I did ask if she could show Elvira sneaking cake to Minnie Fletcher’s goat. I thought it was important to the story, because readers need that visual to understand the joke when Minnie tells Elvira, “You can’t get my goat!”

Eliza, did you get to see the full manuscript before you agreed to accept the project? Or did you just have to take our word for it when we promised you a beautiful story to work on?
E.W.   I saw the full manuscript first.  Considering how much time and dedication it takes to create picture-book art, I can’t imagine a case in which I would be able to say ‘yes’ to a project without reading it!

Did you ever call each other while you were working on TGK?
M.R.   I’ve never called an illustrator. Publishers prefer to mediate between the writer and the illustrator. So any time I have suggestions about illustrations, I email my editor, who talks to the designer, who talks to the illustrator. But I did indulge in occasional tweets about how great Eliza’s sketches looked.

E.W.   We didn’t talk through the process, apart from a few fun tweets back and forth. It makes sense to work directly with the art director or editor during each stage of the process, but it’s definitely fun to get some validation from the author once they have something to respond to. It would be a bummer to create a whole picture-book only to find out the author hates the art!

Once the manuscript is polished and all of the art is in, then what happens?
E.W.   I mail the final artwork to the publisher, which requires a bit of nail-biting (Will it get there safely? Will they be happy with the final art?). At that point it feels like it disappears behind the magician’s curtain and reappears a year later as a real-life, in your hands book. A pretty amazing trick!

How do you feel about the finished product? Is it anything like either of you imagined it would be?
M.R.   Well, by the time the book came out I had a pretty good idea of how it would look, since I’d seen all the proof stages up to F&Gs (folded and gathered sheets, which are the unbound pages of the finished book). And, of course, it looked wonderful.

But there was one last surprise. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but if you have the book, be sure to peek under the flaps!

E.W.   From the time that I first read the manuscript and imagine how the artwork will look in my head, there are ways in which it deviates from that vision through the process along the way. By the time I finish the artwork I’m so cross-eyed that I can’t see it objectively anymore. That’s why I appreciate that buffer of time (typically a year) from the time I finish to the time the book comes out, so I can see (and appreciate) it with new eyes.

Mara Rockliff on the Writing of The Grudge Keeper

“Rockliff has created a clever fable characterized by ornate language, extraordinary characters and billowy atmosphere.” 

Where did your inspiration for the story come from?
M.R.   It just popped into my head. I heard the phrase “keeping a grudge,” and I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if being a grudge keeper was a job, like being a beekeeper or a zookeeper? So I went off to my computer and I typed:

No one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge.
            No one, that is, except old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.

I just went back and looked and, amazingly, those two opening lines stayed the same from my first draft to the finished book.

The language is so beautiful & clever. I love that it challenges young readers to expand their vocabulary and to think critically about literary fiction. Was this intentional?
M.R.   No, not at all. I just had fun playing around with words, and hoped it would be fun for readers, too. Kids love new words when they are “sparkle words” (a phrase I first heard from author Marcia Thornton Jones). Squabbles and quibbles and tiffs and huffs are definitely sparkle words, and so are funny idioms like “getting someone’s goat” or “having a bone to pick”—especially if you can toss that bone to the pet peeves!

What was the editing process like? How many drafts did TGK go through before you and your editor were satisfied?
M.R.   Wow, I have no idea. I’ve got five drafts of the manuscript before it was laid out in pages, but after that we kept on tinkering right up until it went off to the printer. Working with K.L. was a cinch. She’s the perfect combination: easygoing personality, sharp editorial eye. I agreed with nearly all of her suggested changes, and she agreed with nearly all of mine, so we had a swell time egging each other on.

You wrote the book without the artwork, right? Did you imagine illustrations for TGK as you were writing?
M.R.   I always imagine illustrations as I’m writing, and it’s always a surprise the first time I see sketches. The characters might look really different than I expect, or the artist might have chosen to illustrate certain scenes or actions and leave others out. Sometimes the page turns are completely unexpected—what I envisioned as the first five or six pages of the book might turn out to be all on the opening spread. 

Eventually, of course, I get used to it and can’t imagine the book any other way. With The Grudge Keeper, the big surprise was that there was no adjustment period. I couldn’t have imagined all the clever things Eliza did, but the story felt exactly as I’d pictured it. For me, it was love at first sight.

In novels, the author has the final word on world building and character development. What is it like to let someone else take on creating the visual identity of your world and characters?
M.R.   It’s like mixing eggs and flour and sugar and milk and sticking it in the oven and then coming back and finding a spectacularly decorated three-tier cake. Magical!

What was your initial reaction when you saw Eliza’s art?
M.R.   !©!©!©!©!©!©!

Eliza Wheeler on the Illustrating of The Grudge Keeper

“Wheeler's (Miss Maple's Seeds) sure hand and lyrical pen-and-ink spreads are the source of this story's charm. Long skirts billow, the fairy-tale cottage of Cornelius the Grudge Keeper leans sweetly to one side, and the white scraps of paper on which villagers have written their grudges billow and drift like sea foam.”

What was your initial reaction to Mara’s story?
E.W.   I remember very clearly my first thought was, “Brilliant. I wish I had thought of this!” If that thought ever pops into my head it makes for a clear and resounding ‘yes’ that it’s the right fit for me. I’m a big sucker for classic fairytales, folktales, and fables, so it was really exciting to be handed a manuscript that felt like one of those classics, but it’s completely new.

It’s amazing that you were able to translate the mood of her words into images. Was the manuscript your sole source of inspiration?
E.W.   Thank you! Well, of course the manuscript is the main source of inspiration, but I did turn to some of my favorite artists for visual inspiration. For this project in particular I looked at the art of many Golden Age artists – ArthurRackham, Edmund Dulac, etc. And Lisbeth Zwerger is also a constant source of inspiration for me. I make color-copies of their work to hang around the drawing table.

Eliza's table while working on The Grudge Keeper!

Since you’re also an author, what was it like developing the vision for someone else’s world and characters?
E.W.   It’s so much fun to get a story that someone else has brought to completion! Writing is such hard brain-work, and I’m really slow at it, so it can be refreshing to pick up a story that’s ready for illustrations. I’m not coming into it attached to certain visuals the way I might be with my own story. Plus, Mara’s writing is brilliant. Did I say that already?

Do you get free reign in your visual character development? For example, do you get to decide ethnicities, weights, ages, etc. if an author doesn’t specify in her text?
E.W.   I did some character sketches before diving into the book illustrations, and I don’t think the Peachtree team had one complaint! I was able to just run with it. This book has a large cast, and I tried to combine a classic and fresh approach to them. For example, the name ‘Lily Belle’ first conjures an image of a blonde girl with ringlets. To change it up, I sketched an African-American girl with ringlets, and loved that unexpected twist. I saw the two characters Elvira Bogg and Minnie Fletcher as sort of soul mates, they’re visually opposite in some ways, but the same in others. It was fun to come up with a variety of silhouettes to match the different personalities.

For an author, the primary contact is her editor. Is the same true for an illustrator? Or do you work more with the art department?
E.W.   My main contact was Peachtree’s art director, L.J. We worked back and forth together, and then she would collect feedback from others along the way. Since there were a lot of visual challenges to consider (especially how we wanted to depict the grudges), there were more art notes right off the bat than might typically come with a manuscript. Working with L.J. was so great because she was always completely open and made me feel comfortable to offer different visual ideas and approaches from what might have been noted. The whole process was very smooth.

Tell us about the mediums you used.
E.W.   I work on Arches cold-pressed paper, and begin with pen-work (using dip pens and India ink). The color is all watercolors, with occasional highlights in acrylics.

Did you choose the font and how the text is laid out on the page?
E.W.   Apart from hand-lettering the title, Peachtree worked on all the book design, font-choice, and layout. I was so pleased with how they brought it all together!

There you have it! 

A ZILLION "thank yous" to Mara and Eliza for taking the time to share their experience with us. You're both wonderful!

Make sure you pick up your own copy of The Grudge Keeper at your local bookstore and visit Eliza & Mara's websites to see their other fabulous work. 

Want more on the ins and outs of publishing? Ask a question in the comments & we'll try to answer it in a future post! In the meantime, check these out:

#DearPublisher Part Two: Straight from the Editors Mouth

#DearPublisher Part Three: Art Direction

It Takes a Village to Acquire a Book...

So You Want to Submit a Manuscript...

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gordon vs. the Writing Assignment

As part of his Grand Prize, Gordon's story is being published today on the blog! We're all quite impressed with his imagination and how much fun he had with his story; we think you will be too :) Enjoy!

Gordon vs. the Writing Assignment

     Gordon was just sitting down at his desk at school when his teacher asked him to write a story for her. He said, “Oh, I don’t have anything to write.  This is going to be so hard.  I’ll just sit here and try to think of something.”  He puts his head on his desk.  All of a sudden the bell rings.  He jumps on his bike and rides it toward home and then things start to get weird.  Rocks start shooting out of trees.  He sees fireworks blasting (p.s. it is not the Fourth of July).  He goes straight home.

     Weird things are happening there too!  His Mom has elephants on her head.  His Dad is throwing the chair, his sister is throwing sandwiches at him, and a giant chicken is attacking him.  They finally let him sit down and read a book.  Then things start getting weird again.  The characters from Gordon’s books start to jump out at him.   Some of his books have dragons in them and instead of shooting fire they shoot spikes.  He runs for his life.  He gets on his bike and drives off but as he drives away the bike changes into a rocket ship and by the time he stops it he is at Mars.

      An Alien starts to chase him.  He gets into a space suit he found on a hook next to the door and goes out the back door.  The Alien starts chasing him again.  The Alien chases him for an hour and then the Alien is out of breath.  It walks to its home and Gordon walks back to the rocket ship and flies home.  When he lands he sees there is a tiny bomb in this rocket ship.  He has one second and then he suddenly wakes up.

He is at school where he can write his story very quickly.

He has a story to write!  Hurray!

The End

Gordon, the winner of Mrs. Burke's You vs. Who? contest, is in second grade.

Blog Tour for The Grudge Keeper

No one in the town of Bonnyripple ever kept a grudge. No one, that is, except old Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper.
The townspeople of Bonnyripple count on Cornelius to file away their tiffs and huffs, squabbles and snits. But when a storm flings the people together and their grudges to the wind, will the Grudge Keeper be out of a job?
This timely and entertaining story is beautifully conveyed through Rockliff's witty wordplay and Wheeler's elegant illustrations.

Follow more reviews on our blog tour:

Tuesday: Reading to Know
Wednesday: Chat with Vera
Friday: Geo Librarian

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bill Harley vs. the Peachtree Blog Interview

For the last month, we've been running Mrs. Burke's YOU vs. WHO? contest in anticipation of the release of Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome, the second installment in Bill Harley's middle grade series about a fourth grade boy who--despite his best intentions--just can't seem to get it right.

The time has come to announce the winner...(drum roll please!)...and...the winner...of the Grand Prize pack of Charlie Bumpers merchandise...iiiis...Gordon vs. the Writing Assignment!

Whoooo! Cue the streamers! Cue the balloons! Congratulations, Gordon! Your books and audio CDs are on their way!

In other news, The Really Nice Gnome will be on shelves April 1st.

What's that you say? You can't stand waiting one more minute?

We thought that might be the case. So,  we have a few things to tide you over until the pub date:
  1. The first chapter of Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome
  2. The official book trailer
  3. Bill Harley is here!
  4. A sneak peak of book 3's cover!

Only three days until The Really Nice Gnome is unleashed on the world! What can Charlie’s fans look forward to in his second adventure?

B.H.    Charlie seems to find himself in situations he doesn't want to be in, and spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to get out of them. The Nice Gnome is the same in that way.

Can you tell us a little about who Charlie is up against this time?

B.H.    Mrs. Burke puts on a play with her class every year, and this year it's "The Sorcerer's Castle." Charlie doesn't get the part he's hoping for--the Evil Sorcerer. Instead he gets the part of...well, just look at the title of the book. He definitely doesn't want to be one of those.

Will we be meeting any new characters in this book?

          B.H.  Mostly we get to know everyone we've already met a little bit better. A couple of kids in the class get more attention. Like Dashawn, who plays the Prince in the play and has a seriously upset stomach, and Sam Marchand who does get to be the Sorcerer. 

Who is your favorite Charlie Bumpers character?

B.H.    Well, I have to like Charlie. He's my hero. But writing for his brother and sister is a lot of fun since they're so predictable, but hopefully in a surprising way. I especially like seeing Charlie's friendship with Tommy and the one developing with Hector.

We hear you’ve been compared to Charlie a few times. Care to comment?
B.H.  Um, let's just say a good writer often draws from his own experience.

(Coincidence? I'll have to ask Adam.)

We’ve asked kids to write in and tell us about their own obstacles. They might like to hear about yours. When you were around Charlie’s age, what’s something that you had to "battle" against?

B.H.    Okay--truth is, like Charlie, I was never very organized and that often caused problems. 

I was also pretty small for my age, and there were always a couple of kids who would take advantage of that.

And then, sometimes school just seemed to be in the way of learning about the world.

And how about now?

B.H.    Most of those things are still true--especially about being 

Bullies generally don't bother me anymore. 

And I try not to have too many things I'm obligated to do, since it can get in the way of just living life. But with that said, I usually still take on more than I can handle.

How would you like to see this book used?

B.H.    First, I just hope it finds an audience with a bunch of kids. Especially reluctant readers. While I like to think the story and issues are quite developed, I've tried to keep the language simple, straightforward, and fun to read. I hope people laugh and recognize themselves.

I also hope that it can provide some discussion with teachers and students. The book has a lot in it about the culture of schools and classrooms, so if it helps people (adults included) reflect about their experiences, that's good. 

Charlie lives in a very functional family. While there is squabbling, I hope I'm giving a model of how families can work together and helping to affirm for parents how important their job is. 

Hmmm. That's a lot for a small book to accomplish. 

Okay, I just hope it’s a fun read.

What would you like your readers to get out of Charlie’s second story?

B.H.    The underlying theme in The Really Nice Gnome is that you're part of something bigger and you have to contribute, even if it's not exactly in the way you want.

Will there be more Charlie Bumpers to come?

B.H.  Yep. Charlie has more to say.

Anything you can tell us about book number three?

B.H.    The Squeaking Skull (September 2014!) is about fear. And Halloween. And costume contests. And horror movies. And if you read it closely, you'll find some hints on how to tell a good ghost story.

Thanks so much to Bill for dropping by!

Be sure to pick up your copy of Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome at your local book store!

Happy reading!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Blog Tour for Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome

Charlie is ready to play the bad guy in the class play, but Mrs. Burke has other ideas!
Charlie Bumpers has his heart set on playing the role of the evil Sorcerer in the fourth grade play. He's even got the laugh down pat: Mwa-ha-ha-ha! But his dreams of villainous stardom go up in smoke when he finds out that Mrs. Burke has cast him as the Nice Gnome! Determined to rectify this terrible injustice, Charlie concocts one plan after another, but nothing seems to work.

To make matters worse, his dad has assigned chores to all the kids in the family and Charlie's job is walking Ginger - the diggiest, sniffiest, and poopiest dog in the universe. Can Charlie deal with these challenges without causing havoc all around him?

Follow along our Blog Tour: 

Monday, 3/24 Sally’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, 3/25 The World of Peachtree Publishers
Wednesday, 3/26 Laurisa White Reyes
Thursday, 3/27 Kid Lit Reviews
Friday, 3/28 Geo Librarian

Monday, March 17, 2014

Blog Tour for About Habitats: Forests

Cathryn and John Sill of the acclaimed About  Habitats series showcase the striking beauty and remarkable diversity of the forest biome.  About Habitats: Forests is the sixth title of the series, and describes the characteristics of different types of forests- from the cold boreal forests of the northern hemisphere to the warm tropical forests near the equator- and shows how various species of animals and plants have adapted to life in these habitats.  

Booklist calls this informational picture book for beginning readers an "effective, gentle, and realistic introduction."  Its double-page format features a single sentence in large text describing the importance of forests, while the corresponding full-page watercolor illustrates the information presented. 

Follow along our Blog Tour!
Monday, 3/17/14
Jean Little Library

Tuesday, 3/18/14
Tolivers to Texas

Wednesday, 3/19/14
Chat with Vera

Thursday, 3/20/14

Monday, March 10, 2014

Blog Tour for Lost for Words

Natalie Russell of Brown Rabbit in the City and Moon Rabbit wrote and illustrated this second book of our March Blog Tour; Lost for Words

This picture book is a gentle story about finding your creative spark.

Tapir wants to express himself, but he can't find the words! He and his friends all have nice new notebooks, just waiting to be filled. Giraffe decides to write a poem, Hippo writes a story, and Flamingo composes a beautiful song. But poor Tapir can't think of anything to write - and the harder he tries the more upset he becomes! But everything starts to change when Tapir stops trying to write and begins to draw...

Marge Loch-Wouters of School Library Journal nicely summarizes "The seemingly simple, rhythmic text blossoms into a tender story of longing and accomplishment. The universal theme of discovering one's special talent is explored in this tale of friendship and the power of creativity."  

To check out other reviews, follow along the participating blogs of this tour.  They are: 

Monday, 3/10/14
Sally's Bookshelf

Tuesday, 3/11/14
It's About Time Mamaw

Wednesday, 3/12/14
Chat with Vera