Category Archives: PG rated

NOT JUST A PRETTY PICTURE: Women Illustrators & Why I Love Their Work #kidlitwomen

Part 2 – Animals vs. Humans 

Animals show up in more picture books than humans and for good reason: children relate well to them, and sometimes those really hard concepts are easier for children to connect with animals than humans. So which is better, animal or human illustrations, for the story?

They are equal.  Why? Because it’s up to the illustrator to illustrate the best story for the manuscript they are given or have written themselves.  There is no ‘vs.’ because the best story will come out through the illustrator’s artistry which is the best for the reader. And the end result will be phenomenal; an illustrated story within the story. And sometimes, it’s illustrations only, no text. Magic!

Due to the numerous women illustrators to choose from, I make it easier on myself to showcase the illustrators, by whose work I find at the library or book store. As this series progresses, I will add more illustrators and their work to categories I have already showcased, and add new categories as I see fit.

To see more of each illustrator’s artwork, click on their names.

QUIRKY CHARACTERS: These characters may be just the main character or the entire ensemble. I love them because they are shown in their natural and/or unnatural element and their personalities shine through in the illustrations.

Eda Kaban

 Eda Kaban - quirky character humans


Jess Pauwels

Jess Pauwels - animals humor


Kari Rust

 Kari Rust - quirky characters human and animal


Lita Judge

 Lita Judge Monkey

Emily Gravett

 Emily Gravett - quirky charaCTERS ANIMALS


Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

 Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick Quirky characters animals, flip it over

 Now flip the book over

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, quirky characters, flip it over 2

Mary Sullivan

Mary Sullivan - quirky characters animals  

Adorablism – my own ‘ism’ defining the cuteness of animals portrayed in books that matched the story within. 

Katy Hudson

 Katy Hudson - adorablism animals

 Lori Nichols

 Lori Nichols - adorablism human characters

 Margie Moore

 Margie Moore - adorablism


Culture, Community & Inclusion– Experiencing another culture or being a part of a community is not easy to do but these illustrators invite us into it.

Jana Christy

 Jana Christy - community, inclusion

 Jess Hong

 Jess Hong - diversity, community, early concept

 Marla Frazee

 Marla Frazee, community, inclusion, diversity

 Sue Cornelison

 Sue Cornelison - culture, realism, diversity


Emoting – I can feel these characters emotions throughout the story, pulling me into it further.

Hazel Mitchell

 Hazel Mitchell, Imani

Helen Oxenbury

 Helen Oxenbury animal emotion

Isabel Roxas

 Isabel Roxas - quirky humans, emoting

 Katy Hudson



Mae Besom

 Mae Besom - human emotion, thematic


I hope you have enjoyed Part 2 of this series. Part 3 coming up April 10, 2018.

Keep your local public libraries and independent bookstores alive by checking out books for you and your family and buying from these indie stores if possible.  

May you all have a terrific week! 






Congratulations Elaine! You have won a copy of Susanna Leonard Hill’s 


Thank you everyone who entered! The correct answer to this question,

Susanna’s answers on her game play were decided by one of her category answers, what color are her answers?

is purple! 

In every contestants’ category sheet, there is a color category of some sort. Whatever color the contestant names, is the color of their answers throughout the game.  

My bonus entry question was to name my favorite color which was told in a contestants’ game play. Deborah Underwood named indigo in her color category. In the interview portion, I stated indigo is my favorite color. 

In addition to the color similarity in every contestants’ category sheet, I came up with another constant that showcases alternatives to two overused words in writing…GREAT and AWESOME. I revel in synonyms for them.  One of two categories for every contestant category sheet showcases their alternative to either of those words and I use their word in the interview when applicable.


The ABC GAME resumes next Friday, March 9, 2018. 

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!




Today, March 1, 2018, is your last chance to enter this ABC Game Recap Contest. 


For a chance to win the prize shown below, go to this link ABC’s OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD  and comment your answer (before 11:59 p.m. CST tonight-March 1, 2018) on this post or that link, to this question:

 Susanna’s answers on her game play were decided by one of her category answers, what color are her answers?


I will collect the names of all correct answer givers from this post and the others, early tomorrow morning and announce the winner tomorrow, March 2, 2018 on this website. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old and live in the continental USA. Winner will be notified via e-mail, March 2, 2018. 



With Picture Book Author & Mentor, Susanna Leonard Hill                               Susanna Hill

By Traci Bold

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children since the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, though, reading and writing is not much fun. Which is how I came up with the ABC game. My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will play the ABC game by answering each ABC category off the top of their head from A to Z. Following the answers, I asked a few questions to gain a little insight into some of those answers.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer…

View original post 1,373 more words


(I have simplified this contest. For a chance to win the prize listed below, go to this link ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEADl and comment your answer on this post or that link, to this question:

 Susanna’s answers on her game play were decided by one of her category answers, what color are her answers?

See bottom of this post for rest of contest details)


Children’s Author and first contestant of my ABC Game, Susanna Leonard Hill, is the contestant’s whose name I drew for the ABC Game Recap Contest Prize. And her wonderful new book, shown below, which came out January 2, 2018, is the PRIZE book I am giving away in the drawing next week, March 2, 2018! 



Written by Susanna Leonard Hill

Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

Published by Little Simon

To learn more about Susanna’s new book click here.


Post your comment on or before midnight (CST) March 1, 2018.

On March 2, (this has changed from original contest post) I will randomly draw a name, from those who give correct answers, as the winner and announce the winner and the correct answers on my blog,

Good luck everyone. Have a fantastic weekend!


To be eligible, you must be age 18 or over and live in the continental USA.




mastermind – noun, verb

[mas-ter-mahynd, mah-ster-]

  1.   noun: A person who plans and organizes something
  2.   verb: to plan and direct (a usually complex project or activity), especially skillfully


Ollie held a ham and Swiss cheese sandwich. Those were Kirby’s favorite. A mastermind of thievery, Kirby put her plan in action.

A tree stood tall between Ollie and Kirby. Kirby hid and watched. Ollie spread mustard on his sandwich, making sure it reached all edges. He carefully replaced the top slice of bread.

Kirby snuck up behind a bird in the yard.

Ollie opened his mouth.


Tweet, tweet! Whizzzz rustle.

Ollie jumped at the sudden movement. He looked up. A leaf directly above his head fluttered toward him.

“Stay off my sandwich, leaf. It’s mine.” Ollie shooed the leaf away and settled back down.

Kirby slunk closer. She had to stop Ollie from eating that ham and Swiss sandwich. Her mouth watered. Drool dripped from her muzzle.

Ollie opened wide and took a dainty bite.

Kirby cocked her head. Such a small bite for such a wide mouth.

“Mmmm. This is the best sandwich ever.” Ollie licked his lips.

A rock lay near. Kirby turned around three times, then kicked the rock right past Ollie, toward the field.

Just as Ollie opened for another bite, the rock tumbled past.

Kirby hid behind the tree.

“Who rolled the rock?” Ollie asked.

The wind whistled in response.

Ollie grunted as he took another bite.

His mouth full, he looked around.

“I wonder where Kirby is?” Ollie said, chewing.

Kirby yipped at the sound of her name. Oops.

Ollie swallowed. “Too bad Kirby isn’t here. I would gladly share my sandwich with her.”

Kirby crawled on all fours toward Ollie. Sneak attack.

Ollie swigged back water from his cup.

Kirby crawled closer. Rustle. Snap.

Ollie set his sandwich down on the wrapper. He stood up and stretched.

This is my chance. Kirby crept.  And crept. Almost there.

Grumble, burp!

Kirby stopped in her tracks.

Ollie sat down. He stretched his legs out in front of him and put his arms behind hid head and lay down. The sandwich lay on the wrapper next to him.

“I just need a couple minutes rest before I finish my sandwich.”

Kirby stood up. She tread softly to Ollie’s other side. She watched him breathe softly, his eyes closed. The sandwich was just ahead, near Ollie’s side.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

Get outta here fly!

Bzzz. Bzzz.

Ollie swatted the air above his face.

Kirby placed her front paws down in front of her, raising her butt in the air.


Ollie swung his arm out, swiping his sandwich high into the sky just as Kirby flew through the air, her mouth open wide.

Success! The sandwich made contact and with one tug, it ripped in half.

“Great effort Kirby!” Ollie laughed. “You know, I always share with you. No need to sneak attack.”

Kirby gulped her half down.

“I suppose you need a drink  now?” Ollie asked.


“Here you go,” Ollie offered Kirby his cup of water. He finished his sandwich while she drank. “I hope you left me a drop.”

Kirby looked up, water dripped from her muzzle.

Ollie looked in his cup. One drop left. He hugged his dog. Kirby nuzzled him back.

“I suppose you want to nap now, huh?” Ollie lay down.

Great idea Ollie! Just like I planned. Kirby nestled into Ollie.

Dreams of their next adventure filled both of their heads.






With Children’s Author, Miranda Paul 

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all.

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with Mirandathe alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Today’s contestant is children’s author, Miranda Paul, known for her variety of picture books from non-fiction to fiction. Here are a few:

Below is a list of categories from A – Z. Off the top of your head, fill in the blank for each category.



COLOR: Blue (specifically, a turquoise/aquamarine shade the color of the sea where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean)


EVERY CHILD: is awesome

FRUIT: mango

GREEN (SOMETHING): scarab beetles

HABITAT: forest with absurdly tall and fragrant pine trees towering over a soft blanket of burnt orange needles 

ILLUSTRATOR: hopefully my future self, but for now – seeing Jason Chin’s amazing illustrations of our upcoming book NINE MONTHS has taken my breath away


KNOW HOW TO: scuba dive

LANDSCAPE FEATURE: rocky crag overlooking water


NONSENSE WORD: Borgles, a name my kids made up for our cat, whose real name is Dog 


PLANET: Risa or Vulcan


RIVER: “River of Dreams” (Billy Joel) blobfish_throws_a_party_cover-624x624


TALL TALE CHARACTER: Slue Foot Sue, but only because that was t


VERB: Chortle

WHISTLE (CAN YOU)…: Amazingly well


YOUNG ADULT BOOK: The Giver by Lois Lowry

ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE: Recite poetry from inside a crocodile pit (find it on YouTube!)

ME:   Hello Miranda! You are an experienced traveler and have just given me thought to One_Plastic_Bag_Cover_Miranda_Paul-624x527the contrast in color of water between the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean; their blending of hues creates yours and my oldest daughter’s favorite color. In your travels what other contrasts can you think of that when married, create something wonderful?

MP:   Orange and chocolate. Well, almost anything and chocolate.

 ME:   Ah, a human after my own heart! I love chocolate and you got the almost anything part right. 😉 You named Billy Joels’ RIVER OF DREAMS as your RIVER answer. Stupendous answer and a terrific whistling tune (probably one you have whistled long after you heard the song playing)! The song is uplifting, sharing with us how life really is for everyone, no matter their path. Does this song have a special meaning for you and if so, why?

MP:   Middle school was especially rough for me. But once a week, in my school’s sad excuse for a music room—the attic, with carpet and a dry-erase board—Ms. Thomas would play a pop song of the week. Remember, this is pre-cell phones and iPods, and while some of us owned cassette-tape Walkmans, they weren’t allowed during school. Songs like Billy Joel’s River of Dreams offered me a 4-minute escape from the harsh realities of seventh grade. I’ve loved Billy Joel since! 

ME:   The cassette tape Walkmans were the best! Much easier than carrying a boombox on your shoulder. Billy Joel has been a favorite of mine since junior high years too. Like Billy Joel, Greek Mythology offers many life lessons. Please tell us more about the mythical creatures, THE FATES.

MP:   Specifically, when I mentioned them, I was referring to the Fates as depicted in the Disney movie, Hercules. They speak in verse and it’s hilarious. They’re like the three stooges.

ME:   Wow! I had forgotten about that movie. The Fates were hilarious in that! Now I have to rewatch HERCULES😊.  I have to admit, your zaniest thing you have ever done, tops every zany thing I have ever done. How safe were you in the crocodile pit while you read? Was this a place you visited often while you lived in Gambia? And, were you crocodilerelieved to get out of the crocodile pit or a little sad you had to go?

MP:   There was a biologist waiting right off screen. And, to ease your anxiety, it wasn’t the first time I had visited this crocodile pool nor touched one of these giants. I was a little relieved not to have to sit with my back to them once filming was over, but I’m an animal person so I don’t mind staying all day at places like Kachikaly.

ME:   Me too, I can watch and be around animals for hours. Both of the names for your cat make me smile. How did both names come about? Borgles is a unique name!

paul_family_redbrickMP:   My cat was named Dog (Doggy) by my son when he was 2. As for their nickname for him, who knows? Kids will be kids—especially mine. If you care to know, we have three more cats and their names are: Nico, Bat, and Stormee Patience. 

ME:   Kids are the best! Those are cool names for cats. They are lucky to have a loving family to care for them. 😊 Great family photo btw!

Blobfish are mysterious, and rightfully so since they live in the deep waters of the oceans. Therefore, one would not expect to see a blobfish while scuba diving. What are your favorite finds while scuba diving and where?

MP:   A couple weeks ago I was snorkeling in Saint Lucia, and my daughter and I saw a massive crab. I of course, pictured buttered crab legs. Just kidding. Sort of.  

Dolphins are my favorite, but you don’t have to dive to see those. When underwater now I think it’s fun to find both Nemo and Dory. 

ME:   Someone likes seafood, not just seeing food underwater. Who can find Nemo or
Dory first, you or your daughter?

Using as many of your category answers as possible, please write a synopsis for a children’s story. (You have a plethora of stories within your answers right now, that I am even more excited to read your upcoming books.) And what upcoming projects can you tell us about?

MP:   Uh…I got nothing. A scarab beetle on a quest for the ripest mango? That’s adventures_to_school_WebRes-300x227terrible, but my upcoming projects are not! In May, I’ve got a co-authored book called ADVENTURES TO SCHOOL out with my husband, Baptiste Paul. And this fall I’ve got a really sweet book called MIA MOVES OUT coming from Knopf Children’s. I’m super excited for a book that comes out early next year called NINE MONTHS. It’s illustrated by Jason Chin and captures both the wonder and the science of a baby as it develops in the womb. I already know the art will be stunning.

Thanks for having me! 

ME:  Short and sweet works for me for a synopsis. I can visualize the journey the scarab beetle is on in its’ quest for the ripest mango. That said,  I am really excited about your upcoming projects that you describe!!! MIA MOVES OUT reminds of when a child threatens to run away when they feel the consequences of their actions are unjust and how that could play out. And… I love Jason Chin’s work.

Congratulations to you and your fellow picture book author, husband Baptiste Paul, on your new book coming out!!

Readers, you can learn more about Miranda, and order her books, including her new May release book at

Here are other books by Miranda:

You can connect with Miranda on these social media outlets:

Thank you for playing the ABC Game with us Miranda!

And thank you Readers for stopping by!

Have a stupendous weekend!

Common Rejections and What They Mean

‘Embedded’ in this article from Tara Lazar, is reassurance and hope for all writers. A definite mustread. @taralazar

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

rejectedYou’re a lovely person. Simply charming. I mean that, I really do. You read my blog and leave nice comments and buy my books and write like you can’t go wrong. But I have to tell you:

“It’s not you. It’s me.”

In short, that’s what a literary rejection means. It’s not about YOU. Remember, YOU are lovely! It’s about the editor and whether the proposed project fits with her taste and imprint list.

Subjective, it’s all subjective! One editor’s rejection is another editor’s next book!

But editors and agents often provide writers with rejection statements that we want to understand. We feel the need to analyze, to determine what we can do better. But don’t over-analyze. Sometimes a rejection is just a way of saying “no, it’s not for me.”

Here is a list of common rejections heard by picture book writers (and other writers), plus an interpretation of what…

View original post 1,213 more words


Today’s word of the day selection is from Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

synchronicity – noun sing-kruh-NISS-uh-tee


1 : the quality or fact of being synchronous

2 : the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality — used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung


Synchronicity of two psychic events is a common theme in my young adult writing. Some day in the next few years, one of my thriller, synchronistic, YA books will be available for readers. 

As for now, research is calling.

If you have written a short short story using today’s word of the day, please feel free to comment it in the comment section below.

Happy writing everyone!




With Children’s Author and Illustrator, Co-Founder, Sylvia Liu 

Friday, January 19, 2018 

The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading sylvia liuand writing is not fun at all.

My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.

Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off MorningWithGrandpa_coverthe top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy! 

Today’s guest is one of the co-founders of the award-winning, resource website for kidlit authors and illustrators…, and children’s author and illustrator, Sylvia Liu!!!  

Below is Sylvia’s category list from A – Z and her answers off the top of her head.

ANIMAL:   cuttlefish

BAND:  Vampire Weekend  Calvin-Hobbes-calvin-and-hobbes-23762777-1280-800

CARTOON CHARACTER:  Calvin & Hobbes [photo image by]

DOG BREED: beagle

EVERY CHILD:  should read a life-changing book

FRAGRANCE:  I don’t wear any, but I love the smell of jasmine

GENRE (MUSIC):  80s new wave

HEALTHY SNACK:  not what I’m eating now (prosciutto/cheddar/crackers), how about carrots & hummus


JAMMING SONG:  made me think of Bob Marley, so I’ll go with I Shot the Sheriff



MOST LIKELY TOleave a phone/wallet/something behind




Q NAME:  Q-bert



TOOL:  Allen wrench    

UNIQUE COLOR:  Alizarin crimson  kite flyers 2017


WORDS OF WISDOM:  Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. (Lyrics of an English Beat song)

X NAME:  Xavier

YOUNG ADULT BOOK:  The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

ZIP (THINGS YOU): …line in Costa Rica

ME:   You ziplined in Costa Rica? Wow! Tell us more about that experience.

SL: Pre-kids, my husband and I spent a week in Costa Rica in the 1998 or 99. We ziplined across these vast valleys through the treetops of the Monteverde rainforest. I remember the guides telling us the ziplines were the length of a New York City block. It was thrilling. I recently learned that recreational ziplining came out of technology developed by scientific researchers in Costa Rica studying the rainforest canopy, and the first commercial recreational zipline opened in 1997 there. If I had known that we were doing something that was barely a year or two old, I’m not sure I would have done it!

 ME:   Still in WOW mode here. I can only imagine the sights you saw. Maybe one day there will be a book about it…😊

If Calvin & Hobbes owned a beagle, what do you think the beagle’s life would be like?

SL: I’ve never had a beagle but I always thought they were adorable. When I researched them, they sounded exhausting, between their curiosity and their vocal tendencies. I think a beagle would fit right in with the mayhem and fun in Calvin and Hobbes’ lives.

ME:   I totally agree. Snoopy is a beagle and I think he would only add even more fun to Calvin & Hobbes shenanigans. Also, like Calvin & Hobbes and Snoopy, your illustrations are amazing and thoughtful. (I perused your portfolio on your website :

Have you ever illustrated cuttlefish for stories or just for fun?

SL:  I once did a month of cephalopods and did an engraving of a cuttlefish. 

Cuttlefish S.Liu

ME:   Your vibrancy in your creations are simply stunning!

Which is why I was  caught off guard for your Band answer, because I don’t know much about them and the only color I thought of when I read it is red. If they had been a band in the 80’s do you think they would have fit into the New Wave genre and why?

SL: That’s hard to answer. Generally, they’re considered alternative, but every decade’s music is so particular to the time. Vampire Weekend takes a lot of musical inspiration from all sorts of cultures and traditions, sort of like 80s acts like English Beat or Paul Simon, so in that way they are similar. I think if they were playing back then, they’d probably sound very differently but they’d fit in with the New Wave, if that makes sense. 

ME:   That does make sense. They thrive on diversity which is really cool.

Oh no! You have left behind your phone or wallet? That makes for anxiety like no OTHER when I have done that. I picture you as being calm and collected. How do you handle situations like that?

SL:  I am very absent-minded and have left my wallet/phone/other valuables so many times that I am very calm and collected when it happens. I’ve learned that people are for the most part honest and return things. For example, (1) once my supermarket called me at home because I left my purse in the shopping cart in the parking lot return rack and someone turned it in; the staff recognized me from my ID and somehow figured out my phone number (the funny thing is I didn’t even know I’d left my purse behind); (2) an airline called after I got home to report my wallet left on the airplane seat; all items except the cash were mailed back to me; (3) I will wait several weeks before reporting a lost credit card because it always turns up in my house or in a coat pocket; (4) Find Your Phone is my best friend; and the stories go on!

ME:  Hmmm, Find Your Phone. I will have try that! I can be absent-minded myself. I blame it on my kids though. 😉 Like you, I have been lucky in that people were good and turned in my lost purse, etc., though I still had heart palpitations until I had my personal property returned to me. 

What do your kids do to make you laugh?

SL: They’ve inherited my husband’s wisecracking sarcasm so that’s what usually gets me laughing these days. When they were younger, they would say or do the typical funny toddler/kid things. I am so grateful I wrote them down in my journal. For a long time, my younger daughter liked leaving notes around the house. Here is an example of one from a couple of years ago when she was eleven.

Sarah's note

ME:  That’s awesome you kept her notes. Those are precious keepsakes. ❤ 

Using as many of your answers above, and possibly including any sketch you want, please write a synopsis for a story off the top of your head.

SL: Xavier misses his life on Earth—the squirrels, the New York Times crossword puzzles, hummus and carrots, and ziplining in Costa Rica. But he’s on Mars now and has to make the best of it. He knows from his favorite life changing book, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes, that a best friend can be found anywhere. After many setbacks and trials, he finds a perfect friend, a Martian cuttlefish, with whom he builds a kite.

martian cuttlefish

ME:   I hope you follow up on this synopsis….I want to read the full story now!

Thank you Sylvia for stopping by to play the #ABCGame with us! You’ve brightened up a cool January Friday!

Readers if you would like to learn more about Sylvia you can find her on these social media sites:

Sylvia’s blog:  pirate parrot banner March 2016


Twitter: @artsylliu


Thank you for stopping by to read this week’s #ABCGame play with Sylvia Liu!

Have an amazing weekend!