#pb10for10 #TeamRhyme

Educators Cathy Mere & Mandy Robek have been running the #pb10for10 event for years now. Basically, pick 10 picture books you simply can’t live without and share today, August 10th, with the hashtag #pb10for10 (see the official rules here).

pb 10 for 10 015

It’s hard to pick just 10, so to help narrow my field I’m going to stick to my favorite rhyming picture books.


Iggy Peck, Architect

written by Andrea Beaty & illustrated by David Roberts

I’ve said it over and over and over again, but this is one of four books that inspired me to become a writer. Advanced rhyming at its best.

Iggy Peck Architect



written by Samantha Berger & illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Woodstock for the sleepy. And starring a sloth.

Snoozefest book by Samatha Berger & Krystyna Litten


If I Built a House

written & illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

I could have gone with Circus Ship or any one of Van Dusen’s other rhymers, but I just love the wackiness of this one.

If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen



written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen & illustrated by Aaron Zenz

Sudsy is one of the best rhymers out there, and all her books are great, but this one continues to entertain me and the kids every time we read it.



The Library

written by Sarah Stewart & illustrated by David Small

This and The Gardener (which doesn’t rhyme) are two of my favorites ever.

the library by sarah stewart and david small


Three Ninja Pigs

written by Corey Rosen-Schwartz & illustrated by Dan Santat

Be on the lookout for a third in this series coming in 2016!

three ninja pigs


1 Zany Zoo

written by Lori Degman & illustrated by Colin Jack

The award winning debut from a stellar rhymer!

1 zany zoo


Chuckling Ducklings

written & illustrated by Aaron Zenz

He illustrated Orangutangled (above), but he is also an expert at dishing out rhyming text. This series (including Hug a Bull & I Love Ewe) are AWESOME gifts for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or to a newborn baby!

chuckling ducklings by aaron zenz


Monster Needs Your Vote

written by Paul Czajak & illustrated by Wendy Grieb

I know it’s not out until August 25th (in 15 days!!!), but I’m a big fan of the Monster & Me series, and this is the first one being published that I helped critique.

monster needs your vote


Guess Again!

written by Mac Barnett & illustrated by Adam Rex

Technically, this isn’t quite rhyming, but if you’ve read it, you’ll get it.

guess again


And those are my ten for #pb10for10!

My publicist would behead me if I didn’t mention that my debut picture book Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (illustrated by Brendan Kearney, out on September 1st) also rhymes.

Lady Pancake Cover Image (2)


That is all. Make sure to check out all the other #pb10for10’s linked up!

My Official Picture Book Idea Month Post Is Now Available!

Just a quick note to the four of you who read my blog. My Official PiBoIdMo post is up at Tara Lazar’s website. I even snuck in two new previously unreleased sketches from Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast (by illustrator Brendan Kearney). Or is it sneaked? Is snuck even a word? It has that dastardly red jagged line underneath it! The word snuck/sneaked definitely causes problems for a rhymer.


Also, I’m giving away FIVE signed books from my critique family over at my post: THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL by Kirsti Call, REX WRECKS IT! by Ben Clanton, MONSTER NEEDS A CHRISTMAS TREE by Paul Czajak, RUTH THE SLEUTH AND THE MESSY ROOM by Carol Gordon Ekster, and ESTHER’S HANUKKAH DISASTER by Jane Sutton.

Happy PiBoIdMo Day #12.

Books That Have Stayed with Me … and Inspired Me | Part 2

Continuing my non-blog hop post, the following books are ones that have stayed with me and inspired me as a writer (see Part 1 where I discuss books 1-3: Iggy Peck, Architect, The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, & Vunce Upon a Time). But rather than simply listing them, I’m sharing explanations as to why I hold these books in such high personal esteem. Onward we go!

4. The Curious Garden written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Why this book? The first best book of the century

The Curious Garden

I can’t remember when I first encountered The Curious Garden. It was probably in 2009 when it was originally released, but it was well before I had any interest in diving in to the kidlit community. While the illustrations are fresh and modern, they still have a classic feel. This book gives me chills, a quality in a picture book I strive to someday write. The story is simple but also deeply layered, as are Brown’s illustrations. Yes, it’s Loraxian in content, but rather than telling us we can make a difference, Liam shows us how a single child can change a community (and the environment).

In my opinion (and to me, that’s one of only a few that count), I believe that 40 years from now we will look back at the first hundred years of picture books and The Curious Garden will be labeled as one of the best ever. To me it already is.


5. The Gardener written by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small

Why this book? Talk about shivers, this one may cause a tear or two

The Gardener

While both The Curious Garden and The Gardener involve urban gardens, that’s about all they have in common. First off, The Gardener is written entirely in letter form. I recently learned that literary technique is referred to as epistolary via a rejected query of my ‘soon to be published by Viking/Penguin’ manuscript Dear Dragon*. I very much enjoy non-standard storytelling techniques, as well as non-standard story arcs. I’ve never been much of a rule of 3 writer, myself.

The Gardener has multiple plots and subplots. Will Lydia Grace fit in in the city? Will Uncle Jim like his surprise? Will Lydia ever get home? Not to mention minor, but critical characters like Ed and Emma Beech & Otis the store cat. The wordless spreads are priceless. I think I tear up on each of the final three spreads.

And yes, this won a Caldecott Honor, but it doesn’t need the honor to be a classic. It’s also nice to find out that the author and illustrator are wife and husband (I’m still trying to get Mama Funk to collaborate with me on something. I haven’t given up, Mama Funk!).

* I used the word epistolary in every subsequent query of Dear Dragon. #QueryTip: Re-use the positive language and remarks from personalized rejections in future queries – if that’s how agents & editors write about your manuscript, then that’s probably how they’d like to hear it.


6. Jurassic Park written by Michael Crichton

Why this book? Because I faked being sick in junior high so I could stay home and read this book

Jurassic Park

What? Jurassic Park? Josh, have you lost your mind? Well, this book is here for one simple reason (stated above). I was far from a voracious reader as an adolescent. Having said that, this was probably the first non-Beverly Cleary / Cam Jansen / Matt Christopher / Johnny Tremain / book report book I’d ever read. Jurassic Park was an eye-opener.

Why not Harry Potter, you ask? Well, to be honest, when I came up with the list as a Facebook post, for some reason Jurassic Park popped right into my head. Maybe Harry Potter was too cliche? Maybe it was too obvious? Maybe because it’s 7 books and I would have a hard time picking only one (#3) or two (#3 & #6)? Maybe it’ll be in the next post (it won’t)? I really don’t know. Much of the list was sort of a stream of consciousness (see The Curious Garden followed directly by The Gardener). So, yeah. Jurassic Park. Deal with it.


7. The Sneetches and Other Stories written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss

Why this book? Dr. Seuss. Duh.

The Sneetches

I had a hard time deciding between this and The Lorax (I was only going to pick one Dr. Seuss). Of all the long-form Dr. Seuss books that espouse some semi-veiled political angle, I think I’ve always appreciated the subtlety of The Sneetches. And the outcome. The war never ended in The Butter Battle Book. All we’re left with is hope in The Lorax. How safe is the tiny speck of Whoville once Horton’s tale ends? (Perhaps I also don’t like open ended stories, huh?)

Also, in my effort to end all Facebook and blog hops, I subtly tagged characters from each of the books rather than actual people -> and Sylvester McMonkey McBean sounded more subtle than The Onceler or The Lorax (not much more subtle, I know).

I know that no writer can ever write like Dr. Seuss or s/he will simply be copying Dr. Seuss, but while waiting for the midnight release or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at Borders (R.I.P.) in Sterling, VA, I read that Dr. Seuss fixated on every syllable in his stories. I believe that’s one of the reasons why his rhythm was so perfect. I also believe that not only every word, but every syllable deserves that kind of attention (and as I said earlier, my beliefs are really all that’s important to me).

And those other stories aren’t bad either. But I really chose this for The Sneetches.


The final installment of this series will appear … soonish!


Jump to Part 1

Jump to Part 3

Books That Have Stayed with Me … and Inspired Me | Part 1

As you know, I’m not really into blog hops. I’ll do one if people ask me, but I never pass it along. I have a strict Blog Hops Die Here policy. I was recently tagged by Carrie Charley Brown on a Facebook-style hop where I was supposed to list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way.  Like I do with blog hops, I obliged and wrote my own Facebook status listing the books. And as I did it, I found that I had a ton of fun putting my list together.

Because the 10 books give some insight into who I am as a reader, and probably as a writer, I thought it might be interesting to share with my 3 (yes, I now have 3!) fans.

But rather than simply listing my ten books, I thought I would share a little bit about why these ten books are the ten I came up with. So here goes:

1. Iggy Peck, Architect written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts

Why this book? In short, utter inspiration.

Iggy Peck Architect

I’ve actually written about this book before, both on this blog and on Off the Library Shelf, my now sporadic family book review blog. But to put it plainly, Iggy Peck, Architect is the book that made me want to be a writer. The amazing complex rhymes along with advanced language provided the blueprint (pun intended) for my style. While I didn’t immediately begin writing when I first read this book, after reading it time and again, I realized that there simply weren’t enough books like Iggy Peck, Architect. Why were there so few advanced rhyming picture books? Was I just not finding them?

After I began trying to write them, I realized that one of the stumbling blocks is that it is, in fact, hard to write rhyme well. Over time I began noticing more good to great advanced rhyme from the likes of Corey Rosen Schwartz, Lori Degman, and others, but I still think books as good as this are rare. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have Rosie Revere, Engineer and now a 3rd Beaty/Roberts creation coming soon in Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau.


2. The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, written by R.A. Spratt and illustrated by Dan Santat

Why this book? Humor for the entire family. And it was my introduction to Dan Santat’s illustrations.

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins

A few Thanksgivings ago, a wonderful singing librarian recommended this book to me to read to my many many children. The character of Nanny Piggins is utterly ridiculous and perfectly hilarious. I read this book out loud not only to the all the children in my family, but also Mama Funk, who happened to be within earshot at first, but stayed within earshot for the entirety. Children of all ages, from 2-89 will enjoy this book (I haven’t read it to anyone over 89, so I can’t say for sure, but it’s likely they would enjoy it, too).

Spratt has 2 sequels released in the states, although last I checked there were about 8 or 9 released in Australia (and the last time I checked was a while ago). Keep buying these, Americans, so Little, Brown will keep selling them here.

And although it’s only 1 picture per chapter, Santat’s illustrations are an impeccable fit. After I read this, I started seeing his illustrations everywhere. And for good reason. Santat’s talent is paramount.


3. Vunce Upon a Time, by J. Otto Seibold and Siobhan Vivian

Why this book? A Halloween story, a love story, a vegetarian vampire story, and candy.

Vunce Upon a Time

This book works on many levels, yet it pushes the limits of certain standards. There aren’t too many picture books about vampires, especially ones done well – possibly for good reason, the whole blood drinking thing isn’t totally age appropriate. But this book makes it work without a second thought. This book flipped vampires on their heads and made the vampire the scared character. While that isn’t a totally new tactic, it works particularly well with one of the fiercest and most menacing of all creatures in fiction. Everything about this book is completely unbelievable, in a totally believable way. Seeing my children (yes, the many many of them) react to this dark and scary scenery in such a comfortable way made me realize that kids’ books didn’t have to be all cozy and positive. And that’s really stuck with me.

To top it off, Dagmar is a great character, the illustrations are fabulous, and it has one wordless Where’s Waldo-type spread that’s a blast to stare at with the kidlings.


And since I’ve already written so many words, I’m gonna stop this post here and continue it at a later time, sharing 4 through 10 at that point. Toodle-oo.


Jump to Part 2

Jump to Part 3

The Chipmunk Library Blog Hop

Huh? You’ve never heard of The Chipmunk Library Blog Hop before? That’s because I just made it up. It’s starting right now. With this blog post.


How do I participate in The Chipmunk Library Blog Hop? It’s simple. To participate, you must list the following 3 things (the 4th is optional):

  1. Name the first book you think of.
  2. Name the closest book to you, physically.
  3. Name the last book you returned to the library.
  4. (optional) Name the last book you read in the bathroom.

That’s it? Do I have to forward this to others? Yes, you must tag 170 of your closest friends and have them do the same. You link to them and back to the blogger who tagged you.

170 of my closest friends? Really? Is that a typo? That’s kind of a lot. I know, right? Don’t blame me, I didn’t make up this blog hop.

Let’s get to it:

  1. The first book I can that comes to mind is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
  2. The closest book to me is Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown.
  3. The last book I returned to the library was A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
  4. The last book I read in the bathroom was The Gas We Pass by Shinta Cho.

Unfortunately, because I subscribe to the patented Heather Kelly Blog Hops Die Here policy, this blog hop must die here.

Well, it was short-lived, and randomly named. But, as my 3 readers all know, this …



Sunshine Blogger Mystery

I was nominated for the Mystical Sunshine Blogger Award by the fascinating children’s author Catherine Bailey. What is the Sunshine Blogger Award? Well, Catherine tells me that “to play I must list ten interesting things about myself” (see Catherine’s full post here).

When I asked if this award included any physical or financial prize, I got no answer (probably because no one was around when I asked). So I decided to do some research (and by research I mean I googled “sunshine blogger award”). The best answer I found (after less than five minutes of searching) is here.

Bottom line: Yes, it’s a blog hop / chain letter, but you and I both knew that already. And all (3 of) my loyal readers (yes, there are 3 now!) know that I subscribe to the patented Heather Kelly Blog Hops Die Here policy. By that I mean, I will not ‘nominate’ anyone else. But I will participate.

BartmanHere are 10 interesting things about me*:

  1. I accidentally went swimming in the Swan Boat Pond at the Boston Public Garden (on a preschool field trip).
  2. I have never been to Jupiter (the planet or the city in Florida).
  3. I can travel through time.**
  4. I memorized Do the Bartman and Deep, Deep Trouble from the 1990 album The Simpsons Sing the Blues (no, I cannot recite them now).
  5. I do not have an identical twin. But if I did, he would look exactly like me.
  6. I can count to 314.***
  7. I have an irrational fear of the number 8.
  8. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!
  9. All of my many many children are younger than me.
  10. One of my eyes is green. ****

* Some of the interesting things about me may not be completely true and may not be about me.
** I travel through time at precisely 1 second into the future every second.
*** But no higher.
**** My other eye is also green.

Thanks for the Sunshine Blogger Award nomination, Catherine.