I'm Koloud Fawzi Omar Abdul Aziz Tarapolsi a Libyan American, and I am thrilled to be joining the Children's Book Academy team. I am by day a multicultural blogger at ACraftyArab.com, sharing free children resources with parents & caregivers about the Arab world and Muslim culture.
Around nine years ago, I became an Arabic storyteller for my local library, sharing many of the books I list on my blog with my library patrons twice a month. But the choice of books was very limiting. Since I give adult museums and culinary tours to Morocco, I am able to pick up Arabic books in my travels, but I am not able to easily share these resources with my patrons and it has always been a frustration.
Two events happened in 2019 that made me decide to write picture books, the first occurred when I saw Ilhan Omar at a fundraiser. I was amazed at the number of parents that had brought their children to see her and wished there was a book about her that I could share with mine. I left the event feeling inspired, yet my hands were empty with the educational tools I could have used to share my own daughter about her journey. The second event occurred shortly after when I visited the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum. My daughter was attending a music retreat at a nearby college and I spent several days in the museum library. I should mention that I've been a museum educator for over 25 years and have a special badge that allows me special access to such rooms. For four days I looked for someone in the picture books that looked like me. In an entire museum devoted to educating children, I was missing. After I had a good bathroom cry, I decided I was going to be the change. I was going to put an Ilhan Omar picture book in that museum. I set my intentions on becoming the first Libyan American author that finally entered American classrooms and libraries.
I started with researching her life (remember, this was well before Ms. Omar wrote her own memoir), and of course, learning how to write a picture book. My Master's in Islamic studies had laid the foundation in teaching me how to research and I traveled to the Smithsonian African American Museum to find more. Along the way, I wrote other picture book manuscripts, a few funny, and a few lyrical, historical nonfiction books about Arab artists that are missing from women artists' book collections.
But it was finding CBA that changed my writing style for the better. I was very fortunate to hear about this amazing e-course from Twitter and applied for the Yuyi Morales scholarship. I sent in a sample of a funny story I had written about an alien who lands on a chickpea farm. Now after the course, I have more completed manuscripts that I've been sending out to publishers and agents. I am excited to report that I have a few interests and I know for a fact that it was all because of CBA. Why? I had been sending out my Ilhan Omar manuscript for a year and had zero responses.
I can't wait to share more of my writing journey with you on the CBA blog, as well as sharing book lists that celebrate diverse kids having every day adventures like eating hot dogs, playing in the snow, getting their photo taken and visiting a mosque.
Shukran for reading my words,
Koloud Trapolsi is a recent recipient of a 2021 Children’s Book Academy Yuyi Morales Scholarship and now crafts lyrical, silly adventures of Arab contemporary life. She has completed six picture book manuscripts and one craft tutorial book. The 75 recycled Ramadan craft projects are all original content from her blog ACraftyArab.com, where she offers free resources to parents and caregivers about the Arab world & Muslim culture. Koloud currently teaches art education as an artist in resident at stunning Pacific Northwest locations. Join her on her next museum and culinary tour through the Moroccan landscape, stopping at 5 cities along the way to rest, cook and learn.
FAMILIES ARE FUNNY!
By Sharon Giltrow
Borrow ideas from real life. Talented Aussie Authorstrator Briony Stewart, did when she wrote, WE LOVE YOU, MAGOO. A book about her very funny, furry, family member – Fergus aka Magoo.
Funny, furry, Fergus aka Magoo and his family
I am very excited to feature WE LOVE YOU, MAGOO this month, and share with you Briony’s follow up book, WHERE ARE YOU MAGOO?
I asked Briony to share two of her favourite, humorous pages from WE LOVE YOU MAGOO and why she chose them.
B - I based my whole illustration style for the book on this spread. The energetic lines and the texture help Magoo to represent the unbridled joy and cheekiness of toddler readers, (and paired with the text, also allows them to delight in that age old thing of being able to tell someone else off for being a little bit naughty!)
In this spread, Briony has used sound words to ramp up the humour – “squish, squash, wahoooooo!” Such great words for young children to say out loud.
B - Look at that little face! I wanted young readers to be able to both sympathise and giggle with Magoo as he learns the rules of the household. I think this also creates a gentle and funny parallel between the character and the parent-and-child readers of the story.
Here Briony has used the power of surprise. The reader turns the page, and surprise Magoo is having a bath, and he is not too happy about it.
Briony’s dog is actually called Fergus but Magoo is a much funnier and a super silly word to say aloud. When writing funny go for funny sounding words. Fergus not funny (well maybe a little) - Magoo super funny.
Well, that’s it from me this month, see you in April, with another great Aussie book.
Share a laugh and connect with someone today.
For a chance to win either a copy of WE LOVE YOU MAGOO OR WHERE ARE YOU MAGOO?
Sharon Giltrow grew up in South Australia, the youngest of eight children, surrounded by pet sheep and fields of barley. She now lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband, two children and a tiny dog. Sharon has taught for all of her career. Previously a teacher of children who are hearing impaired and Deaf-Blind, she now teaches young children with Developmental Language Disorder. Her humorous debut PB BEDTIME DADDY! released May 2020 through EK books. Sharon’s humorous follow up PB GET READY, MAMA! Is due to be released through EK books in 2022. Awarded the Paper Bird Fellowship for Writers in 2019. Sharon used this time to write her early middle grade book SAMARA RUBIN AND THE UTILITY BELT. To be released in 2021 through Clear Fork Publishing’s new imprint &MG. Sharon is also a Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy,
by Bryan Patrick Avery
I love picture books. Like many, I don’t think see picture books as being “just for small kids”. The combination of words and images to tell stories is compelling to all readers, no matter their age. This month, I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite picture books that I think anyone can enjoy. For the kids, though, these books provide a gateway into the world of reading and should help ignite a love for reading that will last a lifetime.
Nothing engages readers like humor. Whether it’s slapstick, a running joke, or a masterful one-liner, humor grabs readers and won’t let go. Here are a few of my favorite funny books.
Dragons Love Tacos
written by Adam Rubin, illustration by Daniel Salmieri
Click, Click Moo Cows That Type
written by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin
President Taft is Stuck in the Bath
written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Social justice has come to the forefront in recent years. It’s never too early to start learning about the need to stand up and be counted. Check out these fantastic books that encourage readers to stand up for what they believe.
written by Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag
written by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno
Poetry can be a language all its own and it’s never too early to seek out the masters. Sterling Publishing’s Poetry for Young People is a great place to start. These are a few of my favorites from the series.
Poetry for Young People: William Carlos Williams
edited by Christopher MacGowan, illustrated by Robert Crockett
Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes
edited by David Roessel & Arnold Rampersad, illustrated by Benny Andrews
Poetry for Young People: Edgar Allen Poe
edited by Brad Bagert, illustrated by Carolynn Cobleigh
I hope you find something you enjoy on this list. I’d love to hear some of your favorites. What picture books move you or make you laugh? Put them in the comments.
That’s all for now. Happy reading. Have a magical month!
Bryan Patrick Avery writes picture books, chapter books, middle grade and graphic novels. His middle grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, was published in June 2020 in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, an anthology from HarperCollins and the Mystery Writers of America. His debut picture book, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, will be published in Spring 2021 by Clearfork Publishing/Spork.
By Melissa Stoller
I have always been fascinated by how music can spark memory. Taking that further, music can provoke memories that can inspire story ideas. Try these steps to help generate some drafts this month:
Enjoy using music, songs, lyrics, and memories to help uncover ideas that may be waiting for you! Let me know in the comments what you find! Cheers to creativity!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island (Clear Fork Publishing); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set, GOrilla!, and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories. (Clear Fork). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, and a founding member of The Book Meshuggenahs. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and long beach walks.
Every now and then we have a wonderful former student guest blog for us and today (my birthday) the wonderful Charlotte Offsay is doing just that. Charlotte took our Picture Book Writing course a few years ago and now her career is rocketing, which makes me VERY happy!
I always love to hear how other writers get their story ideas.
Some writers I know make lists and mix up atypical characters, feelings and settings. Others I know try word associations and see where their minds wander. Personally, my best ideas tend to come from the things that take up the most room in my heart.
Take for example my upcoming book How to Return a Monster. When I sat down to write this book, I wanted to write a story about an older sibling feeling replaced by a new baby.
At the time I was consumed with how my 19-month-old would react to her new baby brother and a need to process and embrace the mixed feelings I was certain she would have. I first wrote a traditional narrative arc story about a train feeling replaced by a shiny new train, but the story felt too much like a sad terrible twist on Toy Story.
But I kept re-envisioning characters and story structure and eventually arrived at a humorous how-to story about a child who tries to return their sibling in the mail. This is the manuscript that is being illustrated by Rea Zhai and will be published this September by Beaming Books.
The Big Beach Cleanup is another manuscript that was formed from the things in my life that I care about the most. I passionately believe that if enough hands join together we can change the world and wrote this manuscript out of a desire to show my children that they don’t need to be superheroes to make a difference, they just need to do their part and join hands with those around them.
The Big Beach Cleanup is an ocean advocacy story about little hands joining together to make big change. It features Cora who plans to be a sandcastle-building champion, but when the contest is canceled due to litter at the beach, her plans come to a halt. Cora and Mama pull on gloves and get to work, but soon Cora realizes it will take more than two pairs of hands to solve a big problem. It is illustrated by Katie Rewse and published by Albert Whitman.
Yet another example of a story idea inspired from my own life, is my upcoming book A Grandma’s Magic. One of the things that matters the most to me is family and in particular my Grandma. My Grandma lives in England and I don’t get to see her as often as I would like. After one particularly difficult goodbye I was reflecting on what I wanted to write about and decided to write about my Grandma whose magic inspires me daily even from far across the pond.
A Grandma’s Magic is a picture book celebration of grandmothers and all the ways in which they are “magical.” It is being illustrated by Asa Gilland and published with Doubleday Books for Young Readers in Spring 2022.
Even though these story ideas are taken from my own life, none of them in concept are unique just to me. These are things that lots of people not only care about, can relate to, but also have been broached in picture books before…
There are many fabulous new sibling stories including these:
There are lots of wonderful books which encourage young activists, including these…
There are lots of lovely grandma books out there including these…
What makes my books different is that they are told in my voice, from my unique perspective, from my heart. I look forward to reading the stories that are most important to you, told from your unique perspective. Happy writing!!
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
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 STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break