Meet the Clyde the Hippo Series by Keith and Larissa Marantz and Learning about Writing a Series ~ by Mira Reisberg
Last week I received 8 children’s books made by beautiful former students, which made me crazy happy.
So I decided to celebrate CBA student’s successes by featuring them each month with my Blogfish reviews. To begin, let’s take a peek at 2 books from the Clyde the Hippo series. I love children’s books that have underlying themes that I can personally relate to. And I also love it when an author and illustrator create a powerful world in a children’s book that sucks me right in and makes me really care about the characters and believe that world. Creating a believable world is called world building even when the main character, Clyde, is a purple hippopotamus and reduced down to his most basic shapes I believe this world and want to spend time in it – and that plus the adorable characters make a compelling series. So much so, that I was sad when I finished reading the 2nd one. Perhaps it helps that Keith and Larissa Marantz are a longtime married couple in creating this beautiful Clyde the Hippo series. I don’t know. But I’m in love.
In the two books that Larissa sent me, Clyde Goes to School and Clyde Likes to Slide, Clyde is a young hippopotamus who struggles with anxiety, making doing anything new a challenge. Luckily, Clyde has his adorable lovey side kick, Orson, a super cute plush dog to help him in a totally passive way and he makes a gang of friends when he starts kindergarten, who also help, along with his ever patient’s mom. I’ve fallen in love with these characters as I’m sure many children will and pretty much devoured them chuckling along while reading them.
The writing is seemingly simple as befits 3-5 year-old children, but absolutely adorable with wonderful rhythm occasional rhymes, and puns and insider jokes for both kids and parents. Have a listen and look see in the video below.
But before we go there I want to talk a little about writing a series. My Chapter Book and Middle Grade co-teacher (Starting June 15th 2020 right here along with a magical 3rd co-teacher from Penguin/Random House/Dial Rosie Ahmed)) Hillary Homzie just wrote a fabulous blog post on this very topic right here called The Four Principles of Series Writing.
I'm also excited to say that Hillary, Rosie and I are also doing a fab free e-class on The Essential Guide to Writing Memorable Marketable Chapter Books and Middle Grade Novels. It's all happening June 6th and will be quite spectacular. Just click here to register for that where besides learning these fabulous essentials, you can also ask any of us any questions you like as we show you how doable writing chapter Books or Middle Grade Novels can be!!
So after that wee public service announcement, let's get back to this adorable series for really young ones. xoxo
As the stay at home orders continue magicians like me are taking stock of their repertoires. The big question is will we ever approach magic the same way again? The general consensus is no. As a result, magicians the world over are looking at new ways advancing the art of magic.
This got me thinking about the ways writers and illustrators approach storytelling. There is no one way to tell a story. As artists, we must decide which method is best for our style and our story. This month, we’ll look at three picture books that highlight a few of my favorite styles.
In THE LAST PEACH, written and illustrated by Gus Gordon, two insects come across the last peach of the summer. The decide they want to eat it, but then aren’t so sure of how to proceed. Even a little help from their friends only serves to add to their uncertainty. The question Will they eat the peach? drives the story forward and keeps the reader turning pages until the last page.
What makes this story unique, thought, is that it’s told entirely through dialogue. Gus uses colors to differentiate who is speaking and keeps the cast of characters simple. This makes the story simple to follow and allows the reader to lose themselves in the story. Dialogue tends to pull the reader in closer. It gives the reader an opportunity to lend their own voicing to the characters. It’s hard to imagine the story being as compelling if it used more of a narrative approach.
If you’re considering using this approach to storytelling remember a few things:
Also repeated throughout is their response to each setback. They each pause, close their eyes, and blow a breath. This repetition is particularly important to the story because it signals Ava and her mother being able to move past an issue. When it doesn’t happen...? Well, you’ll have to read the story to find out.
The last book is one of my new favorites. ONE FOX: A COUNTING BOOK THRILLER was written and illustrated by Kate Read. Counting books and alphabet books and can be tough to write well but Kate does a superb job. ONE FOX tells the story of a fox who stalks a group of chickens. Because it’s a thriller, I won’t give too much away.
It starts at one, as many counting books do, with “One famished fox”. With only a few words in each spread, Kate’s illustrations help bring the story to life. As we watch the hungry fox sneak towards the hen house at night, we can’t help but wonder what will happen. The twist at the end brings the story to a surprising, yet satisfying, ending. More than a book of things to count, ONE FOX tells a gripping story that readers won’t be able to put down.
If you want to try this approach, whether a counting book or alphabet book, a compelling story could make all the difference.
Well, that’s all for this month. Stay safe and have a magical month.
Hi lovely reader, I wanted to do a quickie intro to Barbara Bottner and why we are honored to have her guest post. If this were Japan, Barbara would be considered a national treasure for both the number of books she's written and the quality of them. Barbara has also mentored many of the writing greats and is also an exquisite person. She and I co-taught a picture book course years ago and it was amazing. Below are just some of Barbara's many books and below that is Barbara's wonderful post. So without further ado, here's Barbara!
Hello, I’m Barbara Bottner, author of nearly 50 children’s books for all ages. I often use my own experiences for my stories. After a hiatus of over thirty years from writing YA fiction, concentrating on picture books and work in TV and print, my new free verse novel is coming out May 19th. This novel, I Am Here Now, from Macmillan, is fiction, but it is greatly inspired by my own experiences. I’m going to share about the parallels in my life that helped me write this story.
I Am Here Now takes place in Parkchester, a planned community in the Bronx, in 1960 as we hurl toward war with Viet Nam.
There are four teen characters. There’s Rachel, Maisie’s best friend; and Rachel’s heart throb boyfriend, Gino. And finally, Richie, who Maisie relies on for friendship and a possible romance. Richie shares with Maisie his dismay about living with his father’s Viet Nam war trauma.
“Tomorrow or the next day, Richie and I will sit together and mumble our sad stories.”
The story is set in the Bronx. I was born there and lived there until the age of seven. Like my home, the Bronx was in decline and experiencing increased turbulence.
For Maisie, the tense uptown streets create a growing, urgent need to escape, as mirrored by her impossible situation with her very disturbed mother.
Like Maisie, I was always an art girl. Art spoke to me as no human could. It allowed me to see other worlds and to feel deeply connected to them. It showed me there was a way to express the pulsing, intense, uncontainable feelings I had and to turn them into something useful and lasting and even beautiful. Art sustained me and still does. Maisie is an aspiring artist and her love of painting is an important thread. It’s healing, self-realizing, and ultimately offers her a way forward.
As in the novel, I had a best friend whose mom was, for her, a challenge, but for me, a lifesaver. I always thought that was an interesting dynamic in and of itself. Kiki, Rachel’s mother, is a painter and a mentor to Maisie. This leads to trouble with Rachel who becomes jealous (and has reason to).
Also, this is a sibling story. Maisie has to find a way to cherish her younger, more compliant and more lovable brother Davy, who’s secretive and dealing with his sexual orientation before being gay was even remotely acceptable. This comes out of my life as well. My brother grabbled with his orientation at a time where homosexuality was illegal and considered a curse.
Maisie is a troubled, desperate girl, especially when her father disappears in the middle of the night. Later on, Richie flees his situation as well. As a result, Maisie becomes a thief of sorts; first she steals into Rachel’s family. Then, finding Gino irresistible, she steals her best friend’s boyfriend.
Refusing to reach out to her father because of his abandonment, she faces off with her mother until her fate as well as Davy’s hangs in the balance.
If you'd like to help support this glorious kidlit matriarch, buy her books here:
https://shop.booksandbooks.com/book/9781250207692 Books N Books, Miami Florida or here:
by Bryan Patrick Avery
In month two of our stay-at-home period, I’ve found myself with a bit of extra time to focus on my art. With respect to magic, I’ve been working on a new cups and balls routine that I plan to perform at my upcoming author appearances (once it’s safe to be out and around again). In the world of writing, I’ve working (struggling, really) with the beginning of my latest chapter book.
I’ve spent the time reading the opening chapters of my favorite chapter books to see what they have in common, or what stands out. In doing so, I’ve made notes about the first chapter and have created a little exercise I’d like to share with you. I’m working on a chapter book so I used my favorite chapter books but this exercise with work with the first three or four pages of a picture book or the first chapter of a novel.
Grab your favorite two or three (or five or ten) books off your bookshelf. Read the first chapter of the first book on your stack. Now, answer these two questions:
The Absent Author by Ron Roy
The same is true with what happens to impact the character. It’s a simply thing, the author not showing up, but this simply occurrence drives the rest of the story.
Here are a couple more examples.
Ann Fights for Freedom by Nikki Shannon Smith
The Magic Tree House #4 - Pirates Past Noon by Mary Pope Osborne
Ellie May on April Fool’s Day by Hillary Homzie
Well, that’s all for this month, stay safe, and have a magical month.
I am so excited about our latest Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books interactive e-course starting next Monday, for so many reasons. One is that I'm co-teaching with fabulous acquiring agent Allison Remcheck who is building her Picture Book client list, and one of the many other reasons is our new course assistant Bonni Goldberg who teaches writing in universities, on cruises and through her book Room to Write. Bonni will be helping a variety of ways including sharing prompts. Here's her intriguing guest post for us. Thank you Bonni.
Inspirational Sparks: Ignite Your Writing
No matter where you are in your career as a writer, you continually sit down to write and find out what you (and your characters) have to say. As you write, you cultivate your creativity and grow as a writer, if you pay attention.
Here are two writing studies (my word for prompts) to both inspire your writing and to show you something about your relationship to your creativity. The studies are from my book, Room to Write, but I’ve added special options relevant to kidlit writers.
Notice which option is most enticing and the one that is least appealing to you in each study. The former lights your creativity up and the latter is a challenge. You decide which spark to kindle. I’d love to know your choice and read your results.
One of life’s greatest pleasures is the ability to taste. Salty, sweet, nutty, sour, fruity, spicy, and on and on. What is your favorite food? Your comfort food? What do you refuse to eat? Taste is a delicious place to hone your descriptive skills. Describing flavors can be as simple as listing their ingredients or as complex as portraying the way different foods and spices relate to one another.
Even more enticing can be describing the way a person tastes. By this, I don’t mean cannibalism, but rather the flavor of a person: their physical taste (such as when you kiss) or that of their personality. What flavor is your best friend? Your dog? What is your flavor?
WRITE only through your sense of taste. Speculate on and imagine the taste of whatever surrounds you. Without necessarily writing about food, have you or your main character experience the world as flavors. Turn all your characters into different foods.
Dear Abby Within each of us is the collective wisdom of our species. You can gain access to it through the act of writing. Your writing is moving when the reader recognizes a truth that resonates deeply. We read and write as often as a way to remember as a way to learn.
Writing stories and poems calls on us to hear the voices of reason, passion, advice, and concern conversing inside us all the time. It isn’t that we need a quiet place to work so intently we won’t be distracted, but that we need quiet to concentrate on listening to one voice at a time. Each voice from our collective wisdom is also the kernel of a character developing.
CHOOSE a situation in your life about which you need advice. Start by presenting the problem. Listen to the different internal voices that respond. Then home in on one voice at a time and transcribe the advice verbatim. Use one or more of these voices to develop characters. Or have one or more of your characters write to Abby (or someone else) for advice and receive an answer. Or have a character experiment with receiving three very different advices and see what happens when your character tries each one of them.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Maggie Brown.
And 5th Mondays will feature a surprise reprise from over nine years of archives.