As most of you know, I not only love to review books, but to write them too! In fact, my first book was published last year. But it wasn’t the first picture book I’d ever written. No. Not by a long shot.
I’ve been writing for years. I’ve been paid to be a children’s entertainment writer for 19 years, but I hadn’t been *officially published* (read: not self-published) until last year.
And publication? Well, it was magical.
So I’ve been chasing that high ever since. I’m in the final stages of editing my latest picture book and, frankly, it’s good.
They haven’t all been gems, though. Usually, when I get an idea for a new book, three things happen:
- I think it’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever thought of and I write down a rough (very rough) draft.
- I look up the idea to see who else has written something similar to it (to make sure I’m not just rehashing something that’s already been…hashed).
- I write the story. Then I write it again. Then I print it out, draw big, angry lines through the text and write it in new words. Then I type it again. Then I leave it for a few days. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. Make a dummy (a mock-up of the layout of the book). Edit, edit, edit. Until finally…there’s nothing left to do.
Except pray someone publishes it. I’m almost at this stage right now. It’s the worst stage.
Anyway, this latest story idea is related to winter, so I decided to see what was out there in the realm of ‘winter-based picture books.’ There are the obvious ones, of course: The Mitten (by Jan Brett), The Snowy Day (by Ezra Jack Keats), Stranger in the Woods (by Carl R. Sams) and The Snowman (by Raymond Briggs). But I wanted to read books that I wasn’t familiar with.
To the library!
I got out five books. I read them to Lily. Here’s what we thought (in four sentences or less)!
Ten Ways to Hear Snow (written by Cathy Camper, Illustrated by Kenard Pak): This was Lily’s favourite out of all the books. She liked it because (and I quote): “It’s an actual story with an actual plot and characters!” (Note: several of the other books had these features as well, of course, but she just enjoyed this one the most). I liked the idea of hearing snow differently, the caring relationship between grandmother and granddaughter, and the evocative descriptions used when discussing winter/snow.
Owl Moon (written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr): Okay, okay, so I picked ONE classic. Owl Moon has been around since I was a kid. This Caldecott winner is a wonderful, peaceful journey with a dad and a daughter, wandering in the nighttime woods looking for an owl.
Little Red Gliding Hood (written by Tara Lazar, Illustrated by Troy Cummings): This story was a bit of a wild ride! It honestly felt like a cartoon made into a picture book — it had movement and excitement and bright colours…and a satisfying ending. I enjoyed it, and so did Lily!
Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter (by Kenard Pak): I really liked this book. I liked the art (excellent), the prose (sparse but effective) and the concept (one season leaving, another arriving). If I was teaching kindergarten, I would 100% use this book to discuss seasonal transitions.
Snow (by Sam Usher): This was more a ‘series of events with a punchline’ sort of book than a complicated story. Basically, it snows and a little boy is trying to get his granddad out of the house and to the park to play. When they get there, they’re in for a big surprise (hint: they’re not the first ones to arrive).
And one more for good luck!
Bunny Slopes (by Claudia Rueda): I immediately recognized Ms. Rueda’s illustration style from the beloved Cat books we’ve read (over and over again). This story is meant for a really young audience, and gives similar vibes to Press Here by Herve Tullet. If Lily had been four years old, she totally would’ve been into this story (but she’s eight now, so…you know, too cool for interactive picture books).
I’d recommend any of the books we read, but I’d say Ten Ways to Hear Snow, Little Red Gliding Hood and Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter were my top three.
Happy wintertime reading!