Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Mentor Text Talk with Author Annie Silvestro

We're always on the look-out for stellar mentor texts.  When we find a great one, our first thoughts are not focused on what the author learned from other mentor texts. Mentor Text Talk allows us to peek into the author's mentor text research behind their stories. Today, we get a glimpse into Annie Silvestro's process. Her stories have tons of heart and are therefore mentor texts, as well. With a huge amount of publication success in a short period of time, she's doing something incredibly right! We are lucky to learn from her. 

Hi Annie! How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?

I go back to my treasured picture book collection both for inspiration and to re-read in the hopes of internalizing some of the elements that I love so dearly, whether it be the humor and heart, the beauty of the language, the cadence of the read-aloud, or just the structure on the whole. Any time I read a picture book, I learn something.

Your stories are true testaments to that. Did any particular mentor texts inspire you in the creation of your newest book?

I didn’t use a particular text specifically when working on BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB GOES TO SCHOOL. Both that story and BUTTERFLIES ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL are about those nervous moments when you’re starting something new, and also about how having a friend and being a friend can really make a difference.

I am a big fan of friendship stories (pretty much all my books have a friendship theme!), especially ones that combine those elements of humor and heart. Beth Ferry’s STICK AND STONE is a classic example of a perfect friendship book.  The GEORGE AND MARTHA books by James Marshall are my favorites. CORDUROY by Don Freeman is one I’ve loved since I was a child.  I could go on and on about all the books that inspire me…

How does your mentor text research changed from book to book?

I really use mentor texts more in a big-picture way so that typically carries from book to book. If I’m ever stuck with something I’m writing, I either go back to my collection and immerse myself in it, or go to the library or bookstore to get inspiration. Sometimes you just need to step back from frustration and remember why you are writing in the first place.

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

Sometimes reading mentor texts shows you what you could be, and also what you are not – which can be just as important. There are amazing books and ideas out there that I know I could never have tackled. But I’m happy someone else has! For example, I don’t write rhyming picture books, but reading those aloud are great examples of how important rhythm can be even in non-rhyming texts. Plus, I always love a little internal rhyme in my stories now and again.

What do you feel is the best way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

I think each person has to approach it the way he or she feels most comfortable. I know some people study certain texts and try to write in that specific style as an exercise and a way to learn craft. Early on, I remember typing up the text from a few of my favorite published books to see how they paged out, how many words they were, and to get a feel for how they looked in a manuscript form. Now, I just try to saturate myself in the beauty and hope that something sticks! It’s so important to read a ton of picture books even just to come up with a through-line of what speaks to you and what doesn’t. What is it about a certain book that makes you love it so much? Or even hate it? Those can be key questions that help guide you and help you to become a stronger writer.

Annie Silvestro is a lover of books who can often be found shuffling piles of them around so she has a place to sit or someplace to put her teacup. 

She is the author of BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB GOES TO SCHOOL, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, BUTTERFLIES ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, illustrated by Dream Chen, THE CHRISTMAS TREE WHO LOVED TRAINS, illustrated by Paola Zakimi, MICE SKATING, illustrated by Teagan White, and BUNNY'S BOOK CLUB, named a Kids' Indie Next List Pick, an Amazon best book of the year for 2017, and a 2018 pick for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Annie lives with her family by the beach in New Jersey. Visit Annie online at www.anniesilvestro.com or on Twitter and Instagram @anniesilvestro

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Happy Birthday --Monthly Challenge

By Janie Reinart

What can be more fun than a birthday celebration with cake, candles, confetti, balloons, ice 

cream, friends, and presents? Why writing a birthday story of course! So happy birthday 

writing to you.

By Doreen Cronin

It's Little Duck's birthday and the whole barnyard is getting ready. Trouble is Little Duck 

doesn't know the first thing about getting ready for her first party. Buy the time the party 

starts, Little Duck has a surprise for everyone.

"It is a very big day on the farm. A cake is baking. Streamers are streaming.

Mice are floating past the window. The invitations have been delivered."

By Karen LeFrak

Mason couldn't wait to celebrate his birthday with a sleepover at the museum. The birthday 

boy and his two friends take off on a scavenger hunt through each hall of the museum.  

What hall will be the best place to spend the night?

"Mason couldn't wait. Today was the best day of the year: his birthday! Tonight, he was 

going to have a sleepover at the Museum of Natural History, his favorite place to visit."

By Jennifer K.Mann

It's Ginger's birthday and she's invited all the girls in her class. Things don't go as planned.

No one likes Ginger's silver and gold cake--except Lyla.

"Ginger's birthday party was in two weeks, and she wanted to invite all the girls in her 

class... except Lyla Browning. Lyla Browning was weird: she smelled like old leaves, she 

didn't talk much, and she even brought a tarantula in a pickle jar for Show-and-Tell."

By Terry Border

It's Cupcake's birthday and it's time for her to plan a party. But what will all her friends 

enjoy?  Cupcake and her best friend Muffin brainstorm idea after idea, trying to find the 

perfect flavor for her celebration.

"Today's my birthday," Cupcake said, "and I want to share it with friends! But what kind of 

party should I have?" She called Muffin over to plan, and they took a long walk.

So blow out the candles and cut a piece of birthday cake.  Celebrate and write your birthday story!

I'll be looking for my invitation in the mail.  Who wants more ice cream? 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

THINK QUICK interview with Tara Lazar

Hi Tara! Congrats on the release of The Upper Case: 
Trouble in Capital City  I love the witty wordplay in this 
book and how it encourages kids to think about letters 
in creative ways. This clever story is the perfect 
companion to 7 Ate 9.  

On capitols:
Becoming obsolete or becoming more and more

(I assume you mean capitals, unless this is a political interview...)

On wordplay:
For the parents or for the kids?


On letters:
A-ok or wordy? 

A-OK in my book!

On punctuation:
Tough or Easy?

Easy as pi.

On Private I’s:
Necessary or extraneous?


On Film Noirs:
Watch them or avoid them?

Watch them all! Start with "Double Indemnity!"

On mysteries:
Frustrating or Intriguing?


On being in the movies:
Worth being kidnapped for or overrated?


On books:
The Upper Case or The Upper Case?

Definitely not the lower case!

Review by Kirsti Call

"Luckily the Quotation Twins were willing were willing to talk.
'Yeah, something's definitely up, besides us,' they said. 'But don't quote us on that.'"

I love all of Tara Lazar's quirky, clever books. This book is the perfect companion
to 7 ate 9. The story is fast paced, and every spread has multiple puns, idioms, and
witty wordplay. The film noir illustrations enhance the already super fun storyline.
This is the kind of story that you'll want to re-read for a rollicking ride and a chuckle.

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 where anything is possible.
Her picture books available now are:

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Mentor Text Author Study: Cece Bell

Newbery Honor–winning author-illustrator Cece Bell is well known for her graphic novel El Deafo, the autobiographical book about living with her hearing loss from childhood. In this post, I look at Bell’s picture books and how she uses imagination and more to connect with a younger audience.


Bell’s very own handmade toy inspired her book about Sock Monkey.

The other characters in the series, Blue Pig, Froggie, Miss Bunn, and Sock Buddy are based on real handmade stuffed toys too. This is such a fun and clever story idea because kids love their toys and bring them to life in imaginative play all the time.

The opening in each book introduces the main character, the inciting incident, and the story problem – everything needed for a young audience to pay attention and want to know what's going to happen next.

The first book in the series, Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood: A Star is Bathed(reprinted as Sock Monkey Takes a Bath in 2015), Bell introduces Sock Monkey, a famous toy actor, who receives a special delivery. On the next page readers feel his joy when he’s nominated for an award and invited to the award ceremony.


They experience a very different emotion when it’s revealed that the “invitation made him gasp.” On the invitation the illustration shows -  “Nominees MUST be Clean.”  And from that opening, readers want to know, will Sock Monkey clean up so he can go to Hollywood?

In Sock Monkey Boogie Woogie: A Friend Is Made, the character, inciting incident, and problem all appear on the very first page.

Sock Monkey, the famous toy actor, was going to the Big Celebrity Dance, and he just couldn’t wait.
But there was one problem. He needed a dance partner.

From that opening, a young audience will want to know if Sock Monkey will find a dance partner so he can go to the Big Celebrity Dance.
This is a fun series that shows how Bell uses few words in each opening so young children get invested in her character's journey right away.


Bell’s unique storytelling addresses universal themes such as kindness, generosity, friendship, loneliness, perception, and perseverance through quirky characters.


Can an enormous bee who wears a wig help kids understand that it’s okay to “bee” yourself? That’s exactly the message Bell delivers in Bee-Wigged

Jerry Bee loved people.
But people did not love Jerry Bee.
For one thing, he was a bee.
For another, he was the most enormous bee… 

Can a very tiny, itty bitty dog looking for itty bitty things to make a bone he carved into a cozy home help kids realize it's possible for someone itty bitty to find their place in a great big world?


What makes Bell’s I Yam A Donkey! so laugh out loud funny?

Juxtaposition: Putting two things together that don’t normally go together like a donkey and a yam!

Misunderstandings and conflict: Yam is constantly correcting Donkey’s poor use of grammar as they fight over the proper way to speak.

Wordplay: And what sets off this “who’s on first” comedy routine is Donkey's misuse of yam to Yam, “I yam a Donkey.”

“What did you say? I yam a donkey”?
The proper way to say that is I am a donkey.

A great twist: The ending and moral of this story is surprising and hilarious!

“If you is going to be eaten, good grammar don't matter.”

Bell's new book that releases on November 26th You Loves Ewe also features Donkey and Yam and introduces a new character, Ewe. Grammar-challenged Donkey finds it difficult to understand the concept of homonyms as explained by Yam.

Dig deep into the picture books by Cece Bell to study how she uses imagination, quirky characters, humor, and more to address universal themes while adding emotion to every page. And you'll laugh out loud too!