Tuesday, June 27, 2017

THINK QUICK with Author Tara Lazar

Hi Tara!  Congrats on the release of 7 Ate 9! Your stories always make me laugh and I particularly like the clever wordplay in this book and how it encourages kids to think about numbers in creative ways.  

On puns:

Can’t live with them or can’t live without them?

I'm supposed to answer with a pun, aren't I?

On numbers:

Problem solvers or problem makers?

For me, numbers have always been a problem. And then, they go mixing letters inWhat does "e" mean anyway? I was absent that day in seventh grade.

On letters:

A-ok or wordy?

Who doesn't love letters...? They make words, which make sentences, which make stories, which are my favorite!

On Private I’s:

Necessary or extraneous?

Necessary. Who else is going to put two and two together?

On Film Noirs:

Watch them or avoid them?

Love them. "Double Indemnity" is a favorite.

On math:

Love it or Leave it?

Honestly, glad I got to leave it. Can you imagine Tara Lazar the accountant? Not a job that lends itself to creativity...

On vacations:

Local or foreign?

Sailing the seven seas sounds delightful.

On twist endings:

Shocking or Satisfying?

Ahhhhhhhh. (That's a satisfied sigh.)

On mysteries:

Frustrating or Intriguing?

Page-turners--so a little bit of both is necessary.

On books:

7 Ate 9 or 7 Ate 9?

I think you know the answer to this one.

Yes, yes I do!

Review by Kirsti Call

I love all of Tara Lazar's quirky, clever books and this is no exception. I love how Tara takes this common joke and turns it into an incredibly clever story with engaging characters and a fast paced plot. Every spread has multiple puns and witty wordplay. The film noir illustrations enhance the already super fun storyline. This is a story that I've read to all of my children ages 6-15 and each of them chose to re-read it by themselves just to re-live the puns and find new secrets in the illustrations. I highly recommend this rollicking story!

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that everyone will want to visit.
Her picture books available now are:
Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”—you can listen to Tara pronounce her name on TeachingBooks.net. She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Creep Crawly Challenge

                                         By Janie Reinart

Creepy crawlies are kid favorites. Just listen to this rendition of The Itsy-bitsy Spider.  Have you tried writing about a bug, spider, or other insect?

By Bethany Barton

Bethany is author/illustrator and the text is full of humor. Her amazing art starts on the end pages. 

"I'm gonna try really hard to like this spider right here. Maybe if I study him for a while...
I think it's working
AHHHHHH!! It's moving!!
Squish it!!
Squish it!!
Squish it!!
That didn't work out. 
But next time will be better."

By Carson Ellis

How about a new buggie language? My five year old grandson loves to make up the conversation when he "reads" the story.  Every time I look at the artwork, I find something new. There is a spider in this story too!

"Du iz tak?
Ma ebadow unk plonk.
Du kimma plonk?
Ma nazoot."

By Sheri Mabry Bestor

This story starts with the gorgeous end pages. Layered text adds more information about this insect. Onomatopoeia in different fonts adds to the fun of the story. Did you know that some species of waking stick are able to change color with light or temperature?


"Tiny eggs fall to the ground, like a slow rain on an autumn day. Leaves float on the breeze and hide the eggs. The woods are covered in a blanket of white. Underground, buried deep, the eggs are safe."

Your challenge is to write a story, fiction or nonfiction, about a creepy-crawly. You might just learn to love them. Leave your favorite buggy books in the comments.

Here is another idea to get you going.

My bright color warns-I taste terrible.
My black spots fade with age.
Don't call me mister!
Who Am I?

Did you guess?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Revealing ReFoReMo with Jilanne Hoffmann

The Picture Book Marathon

When I first started writing picture books, I thought I had put in my 10,000 hours. Little did I know that an MFA in Creative Writing for adults and being a published journalist for 20+ years would take me only so far in the picture book marathon.

It took a year or so to figure out that I was still far, far from the finish line. I knew how to write. I just didn’t know how to write picture books. My first efforts ranged between 1200-1500 words and were deemed more appropriate for an older crowd. My education in the art of the picture book was lacking. Sure, I had fallen in love with the form when I read to my son, but I had never studied what made them unique in the literary world.

So I enrolled in online picture book writing courses, became a member of SCBWI and attended conferences, joined 12x12, and discovered ReFoReMo.

I began to study picture books. I read the ReFoReMo guest posts written by agents, editors, and authors. What books did they love and why? What picture books did published authors read when they needed specific guidance or inspiration?

I’ve read hundreds of picture books. I mean I REALLY read them. I studied each page and how the story moved from one page to the next. What happened in between the page turns? I studied the text and illustrations. I analyzed how they added different, complementary elements to the reading experience. I pondered why a character tugged at my heart. And I focused on why I wanted to read certain books again and again and again.

Are you having trouble with characterization? Check out these picture books with unforgettable characters.

If you can’t plot to save your soul, take a lesson from these stellar page-turners.

Or maybe your prose plods along like a metronome set at 20 beats per minute? Take a look at some picture books that keep readers turning the pages and guessing what’s going to happen next, all while changing up the pacing.

If you don’t know diddly squat about poetic techniques and how they can enhance your tale, immerse yourself in picture books that are playful and inventive in their use of language, whether lyrical, humorous, or rhyming.

Now that I’ve been through year three of ReFoReMo, I can finally say that I’ve put in my 10,000 hours in the picture book marathon. And while I may not have crossed the finish line, yet, I feel far more certain that I will do so. It is only a matter of time.

While everyone’s marathon may follow a slightly different course, we’re all running in the same direction. We want to give children a very specific kind of gift, one that will lift them up with imagination, give them knowledge about their world, and build bridges of understanding. It is a gift that can make a profound difference in children’s lives.

Good luck to all who take on this exquisite journey, this labor of love—again and again. There may be no other work that is more thrilling or satisfying.

Jilanne Hoffmann has read at Listen to Your Mother - San Francisco, is an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, received an honorable mention in a Literary Death Match bookmark competition judged by Daniel Handler, and is a co-producer of Kidquake, the elementary school version of Litquake, San Francisco's premier literary festival. She often features her favorite picture books for Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays at www.jilannehoffmann.com.