Friday, May 24, 2013

ISLAND: A STORY OF THE GALAPAGOS by Jason Chin - Perfect Picture Book Friday

It's Friday—the first Friday of summer vacation for me!

Joy. Joy. Joy.

This time of year means planning trips, watching nature change day by day, and feeling alive. 

We've had a long winter this year in Wisconsin, and I know that this summer is going to be lived to the fullest. We already began with a trip to the zoo, where the crazy peacocks blocked our way, and the giraffes licked every crumb of cracker we had (don't worry: the zookeepers supplied the special crackers).

We'll also be re-visiting the caves, and taking a road trip across the Eastern half of our country. During that trip, our family will visit a number of historical museums to learn about our political and geological past (and let Mom & Dad do some much-needed primary research.)

Anyway, our family's LOVE of nature and history is behind this week's Perfect Picture Book selection. I'm thrilled to announce that the author/illustrator of this book is illustrating my forthcoming book as well. A dream! His skill to blend such precise realism with imaginative and even whimsical characters and scenarios is unparalleled. 

Today's Perfect Picture Book is:


Title: Island: A Story of the Galápagos
Author & Illustrator: Jason Chin
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (A Neal Porter Book), 2012
Category: Picture Book
Genre: Nonfiction
Topics: Science, Nature, Evolution, Geology
Ages: 6+
ISBN: 9781596437166

First Page:

Six Million Years Ago

The sun is rising over a lonely group of islands more than six hundred miles away from the nearest continent. The air is still and the sea is calm, but beneath the water something is stirring.

Why I chose this book:
  • The cover is beautiful
  • The story's scarce text is written just perfectly to engage young children in the science of how land forms and erodes, as well as how species migrate and evolve
  • The illustrations tell as much of the story as the text
  • The facts are so seamlessly woven into the story
  • The final spread is breathtaking!
  • The back matter makes this book suitable for much older children as well—meaning it'll stay on the main bookshelf at home for years as it will be re-read many times.
  • Did I mention that Jason is illustrating one of my books? A thrilling thought!
The book itself contains four pages of back matter. However, there is no shortage of interactive website for kids about the Galapagos to enhance their understanding of the islands' history.

Kids Discover

The Galapagos Conservancy

National Geographic Education

Thank you for visiting! And make sure to visit Susanna Hill's Blog for more Perfect Picture Book titles!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Roaring Good News - an SCBWI Success Story!

Dear Whoever-Is-Reading-My-Blog;

I won't keep you waiting. I'll cut to the chase:


I've been holding on to the news until the contract was officially signed, which I did tonight:

Feels good to finally tell everyone the great news!

Of course, some of my awesome critique group and fellow SCBWI-Wisconsin members, a few 12 x 12ers, and my closest friends knew about the deal that was in the works, and graciously kept this fantastic news a secret. But now, the real excitement begins as I get to finally shout from the mountaintops that:

My second picture book, WATER IS WATER, will be published by the distinguished NEAL PORTER at NEAL PORTER BOOKS (Roaring Brook Press)!

(As in. . . Neal Porter who has worked with a number of Caldecott illustrators—Ted Lewin; Laura Vaccaro Seeger; Eric Rohmann; and Erin Stead, who illustrated A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE. Mr. Porter's imprint also published ISLAND: STORY OF THE GALAPAGOS by Jason Chin, which won the 2013 Gryphon Award and he edited AND THEN IT'S SPRING, for which Julie Fogliano won a 2013 Ezra Jack Keats Award. Amazing.)

I'm tickled...
...and ready to begin the next steps as this unfolds into an illustrated picture book!

This deal is so very special to me because:

1) I love water. I grew up (and have since moved back to a house) approximately 2.75 miles from the vast shoreline of beautiful Lake Michigan. And the book, as you probably guessed, is about water.

2) I wrote it during a challenge called 12 x 12 in '12.

This year's logo! I joined again in 2013!

I knew my original draft (OK, I actually had 4 different versions of this MS) as well as my many other crappy unpolished 12x drafts needed help, though.

That led me to sign up for one of Mira Reisberg's Picture Book Academy courses so that I could think more like an illustrator, and get help on some of my current MSS.

One of her videos in the course gave me a Gestalt AHA! moment, and subsequently, I made a mess employed an artistic storyboarding process that looked like this:

This is the story-boarding birth,
of the new version that became

the manuscript I've now sold, called WATER IS WATER.

3) The third reason this manuscript is special to me is because it's what is called an "SCBWI Success Story." An organization I love, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), afforded me the opportunity to make this happen. At the 2012 Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles, I received a manuscript critique with Neal Porter.

Mr. Porter gave me some great advice on  that particular manuscript (which was my first PB sale), and between the consultation and his presentation that weekend, he filled me up with plenty of insight into the type of books he loves to publish. When I polished this manuscript, I had a good feeling it would be something that was a good fit for him (and, actually, a couple other editors saw it as a great fit and made offers as well. That auction/pre-empt experience was a whirlwind and a story a for later post).

4) The last reason this deal is so special to me is because it's a rhyming book AND a fiction/non-fiction sort of concept blend (is that called faction?). A win-win combo, anyway, because it doesn't fit cleanly in any one category. . .and I'm that sort of gal. Cheers to breaking the mold and thinking outside of the proverbial box. And cheers for selling what they say is considered tough. I'd really like to know who "they" are, anyway!

Before I sign off to have a glass of wine, finish grading my students' papers, and turn in for the night, I want to thank each and every one of you who've been a part of this amazing past year I've had.

I'm especially grateful for my local critique group members (Linda, Stephenie, Jennifer, Cindy, and Elizabeth, and Angie), my local writing buddies (Susan, Nancy, and Melissa), my mentor (Lisa), my agent (Karen) who never seems to stop working, my favorite children's librarians (Sharon and Molly), for always clueing me in on what's needed on the shelves or for story time, my husband (Baptiste) who puts up with the piles of laundry, my kids who assure me that they will grow up and publish my books if no one else will, my crazy cats (Doggie & Zella) who know when it's time for me to take a break, the volunteer judges at Rate Your Story who help me wade through the never-ending pile of submissions and therefore get my own writing done, and my many, many online friends and colleagues who are all there for me in so many different ways.

Now, you go write that amazing picture book so I can cheer you on when you sell it!



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