Tuesday, April 20, 2021

ReFoReMo Mini-Monthly Writing Challenge: Let Me Count the Ways

By Janie Reinart

One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go! You guessed it! Your challenge this month is to write a counting story.  You can add magic to your counting book like Dawn Young in Counting Elephants. Kate Read's story, One Fox is a counting book thriller. Be sure to check out the ultimate list of counting books on Anna Geiger's blog. Anna Geiger, M.Ed. is CEO of the Measured Mom blog. Check out her  post The Ultimate List of Counting Books.

I recently read the picture book, I Can Only Draw Worms by Will Mabbit to my two grandsons aged six and three. When I was finished, both boys yelled, "Read it again!"  The boys laughed out loud in several places in the story.

By Will Mabbitt

"This is a book about worms. (I can only draw worms.)
   Here's worm ONE.
   Here's worm TWO.
   Here they are both together.
   It's hard to know which is which.
   I'll. give the second worm glasses.
   That's better. Now you can tell them apart."

By Vivian Kirkfield

Wildlife greets the day and finds shelter, safety, and fun on the river in this lyrical, ecologically oriented counting book. Vivian  Kirkfield created back matter that introduces each species, conservation efforts, causes for animals to become endangered, and what people can do to protect wild habitats.

"Water wakes. 
  Dawn breaks.
  in a chorus of birdsong.
  One willow flycatcher whistles
   as the night slips silently away."

By Anthony D. Fredericks

Tall Tall Tree: A Nature Book for Kids About Forest Habitats is a rhyming counting book with STEAM activities. Back matter contains information about redwood trees and the animals that live there. 

"Creeping, hopping, zipping
throughout the redwood's green
are many different creatures
who are very seldom seen.

They live among the branches
high in this tall tall tree.
Insects, birds, and mammals.
Let's count them--one, two three."

Have fun creating your counting story. Mention your favorite counting books in the comments.
Ready. Set. Go!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Perfectly Paired Picture Books - Introduction

 By Keila V. Dawson

As writers, we’re told to read widely. The mission of ReFoReMo is to study mentor texts to improve a writer’s craft. The ReFoReMo blog and the annual challenge in March provide followers with lots of recommended titles to study. In his new blog feature, Perfectly Paired Picture Books, readers will find books representative of the diverse audience who read the books we write. Books will be matched based on similar story elements with those without diverse content and or where that content isn't the focus of the story which remains the overwhelming majority of books published today.

Ready to explore? Let's go!

What is diversity?

Just so we are all on the same page (pun intended!) we’ll use We Need Diverse Books' criteria of diversity. And Ohio State University’s Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s concept of Mirrors, Windows and Sliding Glass Doors as a framework to think about the impact of diverse books on young readers.

All books with diverse content need to be evaluated so his article, Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children's Books, gives an in-depth look at ways to do that. After reading the titles in these pairs, use the questions below to think about them.  

1.     Is a book you read diverse? If yes, what story elements make it so? 

·        Setting

·        Main character

·        gender identity

·        sexual orientation

·        skin color

·        racial identity

·        ethnic/cultural identity

·        religious affiliation

·        neurodiversity

·        socioeconomic inequity or inequality

·        Story problem

·        Topic

·        Language

2.   How is this book a mirror for readers represented in it?

3.   How is this book a window or sliding glass door for readers who are and are not represented?

4.  How does the point of view add to the storytelling?

5.   What makes the structure of this book a good fit for this story?

6.   How do the illustrations and visual storytelling add to the text?

7.   Consider the author’s perspective—what are examples of ways the author and or illustrator show how they see the setting, character, problem, or topic? 

8.  Do you know the relationship of the author to the characters, topic, and or theme of the book? How does that affect the storytelling?

       Because it’s spring, I think of farming, and farming makes me think of community gardening. April is also national poetry month. Keeping that in mind, below are perfectly paired picture books recommended for you to read as mentor texts.





The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey


Bess the Barn Stands Strong bElizabeth Gilbert Bedia, and illustrator Katie Hickey

Community Gardening

Anywhere Farm by Phyllis Root

Harlem Grown Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood  by Tony Hillery and illustrator Jessie Hartland 



Poetry Month

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho and illustrator Dung Ho 

Dear Girl,: A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal  and illustrator Holly Hatam 

Comparing books with common elements can help writers analyze an author's perspective and how they approached a topic in order to tell their story, their way. 

Let us know what books you'd add to each pair. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

ReFoReMo 2021 Prize Winners

We are so grateful for the eye-opening perspectives and education from our seventh-annual 2021 ReFoReMo challenge. You are all winners for dedicating yourselves to mentor text study and growing your craft through this challenge.

Book discussion takes mentor text study to another level and that is why we created the ReFoReMo Facebook group. We decided to give a bonus prize this year to the participant that reflected the most in our Facebook discussion group. This person posted lengthy reflections on every book throughout ReFoReMo, attempting to spark new discussions nearly every day. We see you and thank you…


Eva Fekete de Felder!

You win a 20-minute consultation with us!

(Carrie Charley Brown and Kirsti Call)


We hope you will all stay engaged in our ReFoReMo Facebook group throughout the entire year with picture book discussion, helping others with mentor text recommendations, and sharing picture book resources. Reading for Research blog posts will be featured each Tuesday, including a mini challenge on the third Tuesday of each month.


Thank you, again, to our amazing ReFoReMo presenters and prize donors! If you have not already, please mark their books as “to-read” or “read” on Goodreads, give back by writing reviews, request their books at the library, and follow them on social media. You will find links to each of their websites here

And now…the winners of our Rafflecopter Drawing…


Kirsti Call’s COW SAYS MEOW:  Donna L. Martin

Quick Look Critique with Carrie Charley Brown:  Dea Brayden

Marcie Flinchum Atkins’ WAIT REST PAUSE:  Celeste A Turner


Heidi E. Y. Stemple and Jane Yolen’s I AM THE STORM: Kimberly Wilson

15-30 Min Consultation with Susannah Richards: Michelle Kashinsky


Joana Pastro’s LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS: Hilary Margitich

Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s THAT MONSTER ON THE BLOCK: Serena Gingold Allen

Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s NOW I’M A BIRD: Kay Tarapolsi

Sue Ganz-Schmitt’s PLANET KINDERGARTEN: Jennifer Hunt

Hayley Barrett’s: WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW: Jennifer Cole Judd

30-Min Coaching Session with Carole Boston Weatherford: Jenny Buchet

Picture Book Critique with Erin Dionne: Sheri Rad

Picture Book Critique with Agent Kaitlyn Sanchez: Angie Quantrell


45-Minute Zoom or Consultation with Lauren Kerstein: Vasilia Graboski

Swag Package from Lauren Kerstein: Maria Marshall

Todd Tarpley’s 3-book package: Heather Pierce Stigall

Corey Rosen Schwartz donates Kirsti Call’s Cow Says Meow: Susan Papierski Summers

Picture Book Critique from Cindy Schrauben: Lynne Marie

Picture Book Critique or Consultation with Kathy Halsey: Brenda Flower

Janie Reinart donates Lola Schaefer’s TEACHING THE CRAFT OF WRITING: Suzanne Poulter Harris

Picture Book Critique from Editor Jackie Kruzie: Natasha Garnett

Picture Book Critique or Virtual School Visit from Keila Dawson: Gretchen Huesmann

Congratulations again, to all ReFoReMo 2021 participants! We hope your picture book drafts and revisions will be productive in this new year. We encourage you to jump right in and revise together with the #ReVISIONweek Spring challenge tomorrow on Lauren Kerstein’s blog. The springtime focus is page spreads. Who’s ready to revise?  

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

ReFoReMo Day 23: Carrie & Kirsti Challenge you to Reflect and Keep Going

Congratulations on completing our month-long picture book craft study! All good things must come to an end, and our 2021 7th-Annual ReFoReMo Challenge is now a wrap. If you are one of those people who can’t bear to see it to end, you’ll be pleased to know our blog runs year-round with weekly posts on Tuesdays. And our very own Janie Reinart motivates you with a brand new Monthly Mini-ReFoReMo Writing Challenge the 3rd Tuesday of every month!

Now it’s in your hands…

You’ve immersed yourself in study and we’d love to hear what was most valuable for you.


Which bits of knowledge will you take to your works in progress?

Which elements do you need to learn more about?

How did different perspectives open your eyes to new learning?

We’re extremely grateful to be surrounded by publishing professionals who care enough to help this free experience continue every year. Please join us in thanking our wonderful team of 2021 presenters! If they have books, please consider reviewing or purchasing them as a way to reciprocate.


Carrie Charley Brown & Kirsti Call

Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Matthew C. Winner

Heidi E.Y. Stemple

Susannah Richards

Kaitlyn Sanchez

Traci Sorell

Don Tate

Erin Dionne

Janie Rienart

Joyce Sweeney

Todd Tarpley

Hayley Barrett

Corey Rosen-Schwartz

Keila V. Dawson

Miranda Paul

Carole Boston Weatherford

Lauren Kerstein

Cindy Schrauben

Kathy Halsey

Sue Ganz-Schmitt

Joana Pastro

We were definitely ALL recipients of a wonderful education this month! 

And yet, there’s still a possibility you could win an additional prize. 

As announced in our ReFoReMo Facebook Group, you will also have the opportunity to... 

...polish up your manuscripts and be exclusive!  Acquisitions Editor Jackie Kruzie at Blue Whale Press is dedicating a submissions page exclusively to registered* ReFoReMo participants. She is currently looking for STEM picture books for both fiction and non-fiction. Her wish list and other guidelines can be found on her website HERE, and her complete Facebook Live interview is in our group. (You might also enjoy a condensed interview below the Rafflecopter.) You will find the dedicated ReFoReMo submissions link listed in the ReFoReMo files of the Facebook Group. The link will be open from April 1 through April 15. She will be closed to all other submissions at this time, so this really is an amazing opportunity!

And...you’ll notice one additional bonus prize of a picture book critique from Jackie below, too! 


If you registered for ReFoReMo 2021 by March 1*, made efforts to read & study this month, and commented on every post, you are welcome to enter the Rafflecopter below. We use one Rafflecopter drawing to keep it simple; you will enter one time only. This will put you into a pool from which all prizes are drawn.

The Rafflecopter drawing will be open until this Friday, April 2 and prize winners announced on Tuesday, April 6. That’s 3 days to enter the drawing, so be sure to enter now if you qualify. 


With the upcoming holiday weekend upon us, we’ll need time to draw names and notify winners before they are announced on Tuesday. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

ReFoReMo Day 22: Author Joana Pastro Kerplunks into Onomatopoeia

I believe onomatopoeia is so much more than mere representation of sound.

It helps amplify all sorts of actions and, in doing so, all sorts of emotions. In LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, I used “Kerplunk!” repeatedly as a way to introduce a character’s intention. Here are some other examples:

CAN U SAVE THE DAY by Shannon Stocker/ Illustrated by Tom Disbury

Here, the vowels go on strike, making communication rather challenging.

“Instead of bark, the dog said ‘brk.’”

Laughter is guaranteed!


THE LITTLE BLUE COTTAGE by Kelly Jordan/ Illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle

Who knew a “honk-honk” and a “beep-beep” could be so heartwarming?

“Then one day a faint beep-beep! echoed in the drive.”


TWO BICYCLES IN BEIJING by Teresa Robeson/ Illustrated by Junyi Wu

Lunzi is looking for her friend Huangche. Every “Brrr-ring-ring” fills us with hope and anticipation for their reunion.

“Brrr-ring-ring. Could it be?”


ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOOD NIGHT by Lauren H. Kerstein/ Illustrated by Nate Wragg

From the very first page, onomatopoeia sets the tone.

“ZIPEEEEE! WAHOO! Rosie the superdragon saves the world!”

 This story is full of frolicking fun and mishaps!


WOOD, WIRE, WINGS by Kirsten W. Larson/ Illustrated by Tracy Subisak

Here, onomatopoeia helps show Lillian’s inquisitive spirit, hard work, frustrations, excitement and accomplishment when she finally succeeds.

“It lifted off, soaring toward the future . . . BBRRRMM BRRMMMM”.

So go ahead: Add those sounds! Let those feelings soar!

Joana is giving away a copy of LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS to one lucky U.S. winner! To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 1, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.

Joana Pastro always wanted to be an artist of some sort. So, she became an architect. But once her first child was born, all the visits to the library, and the countless story times made Joana start dreaming of becoming a children’s book author. After a lot of reading, writing and revising, her dream came true. Her debut picture book, LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS, illustrated by Jhon Ortiz, was published by Boyds Mills Press in 2020. Her second book, BISA’S CARNAVAL, illustrated by Carolina Coroa will be published by Scholastic in November, 2021. Originally from Brazil, Joana now lives in Florida with her husband, her three extremely creative children, a rambunctious Morkie, and a needy Maltipoo. Visit her on Twitter @jopastro, Instagram @jppastro , or at www.joanapastro.com.

Monday, March 29, 2021

ReFoReMo Day 21: Author/Librarian Kathy Halsey Gives Illustration Insights for Writers

The Caldecott prize criteria states that a picture book “essentially provides the child with a visual experience.” How can writers leave space for illustrators? My mentor texts focus on illustration techniques that add to the story with design layout and composition. 

In Candace Fleming’s Cubs in a Tub: The True Story of the Bronx Zoo’s First Woman Zookeeper, illustrator Julie Downing designed art around text to alleviate dense text blocks. 

·   She broke the action into multiple images for more eye engagement.

·  On the spread when the main character says goodbye to the cub, Candace conveys plot while Julie’s setting emphasizes emotion with a rainy day.

Compelling characters hook readers. If writers delete adjectives, illustrators will describe characters as Isabella Kung does in No Fuzzball.                                                       ·      Fuzzball dominates the cover, a visual suggestion of her prima donna demeanor portrayed in the plot.             ·      In interior spreads, Fuzzball’s tail directs the reader’s eye, creating movement and page turns just like words do.

Writers can partner with the illustrator to magnify theme, too. Lindsay Bonilla’s Polar Bear Island humorously highlights acceptance of others. Illustrator Cinta Villalobos intensifies the theme with end papers showing the island’s transformation.

·      The lack of color on the beginning end papers contrasts with the vibrancy of the island in the back end papers.

·      During read alouds, kids usually notice the change that penguin Kirby brings to a polar-only island by “reading” the end papers.-- 

Back matter matters more when illustrators get creative. Timelines can become features when reimagined with art.

·      In Keila V. Dawson’s Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book, illustrator Alleanna Harris recasts the timeline into an actual road with period car models to mark the dates.

The road map timeline could become a classroom poster under the direction of the publisher’s publicity department.

Dive into Megan Dowd Lambert’s
Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See.

·      Meant as practical guide for reimagining storytime, it will revolutionize the way you use words.

·       Use it for how story is woven together with art. Learn how to “think with your eyes.”

·       Peruse the "Glossary of Book and Storytime Terminology" for design terms that illustrators, editors, and other use.

I hope these books help teach how to “think with your eyes” as well as your words by inviting the illustrator into your writing. 

Kathy is giving away a picture book critique (F or NF) or an "Ask Me Anything" phone chat via her perspective as a K-12 school librarian. To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 1, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.

Kathy Halsey is Storyteller Academy’s Community Manager and Ambassador. She enjoys writing picture books, humor, and nonfiction. She received a PBChat Twitter Mentorship in 2019. Kathy’s active in SCBWI and blogs with other kid lit writers on the GROG. She serves on the Choose to Read Ohio Advisory Council and speaks at educational and literary conferences. Kathy’s a former K-12 school librarian and children's bookseller. Her passions include reading, gardening, music, OSU and the arts. Kathy lives in Columbus OH with her husband and silly Corgi Wiley. She writes monthly author studies for the Reading for Research Month along with Keila Dawson.

Friday, March 26, 2021

ReFoReMo Day 20: Author Cindy Williams Schrauben Packs a Punch with Humorous Picture Books

Writing humorous picture books takes a great deal of practice. Much like with stand-up comedy there are many details to consider -- how to structure the story arc, pacing, balancing laughs with necessary details, and, of course, when to hit with the punchline. The following titles have helped to inform my current work.  

Potato Pants by Laura Keller

The Bad Seed by Jory John, illustrated by Peter Oswald

Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio,

illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

Spring Stinks by Ryan T. Higgins

Bob Not Bob! by Audrey Vernick & Liz Garton Scanlon,

illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Cindy is giving away a picture book critique to one lucky winner! To be eligible for prizes throughout the challenge, you must be registered by March 1, comment on each post, consistently read mentor texts, and enter the Rafflecopter drawing at the conclusion of ReFoReMo.


Cindy Williams Schrauben is realizing her dream of writing books for kids. Before embarking on this path, she held positions as a preschool administrator, teacher, and assistant director of a children’s museum. With degrees in english, elementary education, and child psychology, Cindy strives to empower children and books are always a crucial part of that picture. When not writing or honing her craft, Cindy might be found dissecting her grandsons’ shenanigans for story ideas, reading on the floor in the bookstore, or eating ice cream… ideally all at once.