I think picture books can bring a lot of good feeling–for children, and also for adults. I struggle with a lot of depression (a result of childhood abuse), and one of the things I turn to when I’m depressed that consistently help are feel-good picture books. I think good picture books can be tools to help with emotions, even trauma, in both children and adults. But because I’m a writer, and I also do art (just for myself), I have to really love both the writing and the illustrations, as well as the message or theme in the books, to love the books.
These two books are two of my new favorites that delight me; I hope you or the children in your life will love them as much as I do.
Good News, Bad News
Written and Illustrated by: Jeff Mack
Published by: Chronicle Books
Published: July 2012
Age range: 1-6 years (and up)
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: I bought the book myself.
Good News, Bad News delivers a powerful story with not much text and great illustrations, but the text that there is tells a lot. The text is simple: “Good news” from one character’s perspective, and “Bad news” from the other. It’s a story of an optimist rabbit and a pessimist rat. The optimist rabbit keeps seeing the good in everything that happens or every way a problem is solved–when it rains, having an umbrella handy, when the rat gets swept away in the storm with the umbrella, realizing that they’re now under shelter under a tree. And the rat keeps seeing the negative in everything–rain spoiling a picnic, the wind sweeping her or him away. Over and over, no matter what calamities befall the two, the rabbit keeps seeing the good things, and the rat the bad–until finally the rat freaks out and yells “Bad news!” over and over. When that happens, suddenly the rabbit is overcome with despair and agrees with the rat. The rat is so dismayed by his or her good friend losing hope, that the rat suddenly finds hope her/himself, and shows it to the rabbit, who regains her/his sense of hope and happiness. This is a funny and heartwarming story, sure to bring laughter and good feeling.
The illustrations are vivid drawings with a cartoon-like feel (in a good way), and are highly expressive; you always know by looking at the characters what they’re feeling. The illustrations also move from including background and a full-color page, to closeups of the characters with only a white background, and this helps keep visual interest. The mishaps are very visual–pink icing splatting all over the rat, lightning striking the characters and blackening them. There’s no mistaking what happens to the characters, or the humor as well as the mood, and the light use of text underscores the emotional tone of the events. The illustrations perfectly match the text.
Good News, Bad News is an entertaining, enjoyable story, and it’s also a deep story–one that may help change your perspective and help you see that for some things in life, how you experience them depends on how you see them–as positive or negative experiences. Written and illustrated in a lighthearted, funny, sweet way, without any preaching, this book is a real treat. It’s one of my new top favorites. Highly recommended!
Snippet the Early Riser
Written and illustrated by: Bethanie Deeney Murguia
Published by: Knopf Books/Random House
Published: March 12, 2013
Age range: 3-7 years and up
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Source: Book donated by publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Sometimes there’s something so touching about certain illustrations that they just curl up inside my heart like a hug, and feel just right. That’s the way it was as soon as I started browsing the pages of Snippet the Early Riser. I was hoping that the text and story would live up to the illustrations–it’s so disappointing when they don’t–and I wasn’t disappointed. The story is just as sweet and wonderful as the illustrations.
Snippet loves to do all the things that other snails do–draw on the sidewalk, make leaf sculptures (by eating pieces of the leaves), getting piggy back rides–but he doesn’t sleep in like the rest of the snails. Instead, he’s an early riser. He tries and tries to get his family awake to play with him, but by the time his family finally gets up, he’s too tired to play for very long. And then once he falls asleep, the reverse happens. But he still has other friends to play with. This is a funny, sweet book that lets readers know it’s okay to be who you are, to sleep in or get up early.
The illustrations are enchanting and heartwarming; they made me feel good to look at. Snippet and each of the snails in his family all have different designs on their shells–Snippet has red and white polka dot patches on a turquoise spotted shell, his sister has white stars on a red shell, his mother has white flowers on a purple shell, and his father has blue and turquoise plaid. When Snippet and his sister draw designs on the sidewalk (with the slime trail from their bodies) they are beautiful–Snippets graceful curls, his sister hearts. And when they make leaf sculptures by eating parts of the leaves, Snippet’s is a big star, while his sister’s are hearts. The illustrations and colors used are soothing and comforting.
Some of the story text is told through speech bubbles or sound effects (munch munch) adding to the fun of the illustrations, while the bulk of the story is typefaced text. The story text feels just right; not too long and not too short, and the reversal at the end of the story (his family trying to wake him up, instead of him trying to wake him up–until it starts all over again) brings a fun note.
In some ways Snippet is different from his family, but he’s still obviously loved and secure and has many friends. I think we can all relate to being a little different than others in some way, and this is a sweet, non-preachy book about that. Highly recommended!
I loved both these books so much that I will now look for any book by Jeff Mack and Bethanie Deeney Murguia, and have them on my list to give children in my life, as well as some other adults who love picture books. If you love picture books the way I do, I highly suggest you check these out!
Powerful video by UN human rights office: LGBT rights are human rights. (I admit–it made me cry. I want this–a world that is free and equal.)
Guest Post by indie author Su Williams: Show, Don’t Tell; Some of the Stuff I’ve Learned; and Something Different
Today indie author Su Williams joins us with writing technique (Show, Don’t Tell), writing advice (Some of the Stuff I’ve Learned Along the Way), and some fun question and answers (Something Different), to celebrate the release of her new YA novel Dream Weaver. DREAM WEAVER is now only 0.99 on Amazon. A story of mind-benders & breakers. Are your memories your own?
“Show, Don’t Tell”
“Then, out of the shadows flanking her came a hand, curled into a fist even blacker than the gloom; gnarled and calloused as if it had been hewn from an ancient tree root. The long, spindly fingers creaked as they unfolded, as if the bones beneath the meagre flesh were snapping.”
This is an excerpt from a short story, Father of Lies, from one of my favorite new indie authors, Sam Whitehouse. I felt it was a beautiful example of ‘Show, don’t tell’ your story. I’ve met so many indie authors, young and old, that haven’t transitioned from telling a story to showing the story. Some I’ve been brave enough to go out on a limb for and hope they don’t have a saw. It’s obvious they are great writers, with fantastic story lines or concepts. The plot has the twists and turns. And I feel like I can say they have definitely ‘got the chops,’ as they say. When I run into an author like this I always want to do what I can to help out, but I’m always afraid I’ll come off as a prig. And honest, I’m really not self-righteous at all. I just see this gift inside them and I have this incredible desire to pull it out of them.
Anton Chekhov said:
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. (source: Goodreads)
I want to see thirst in the syllables, touch fire in the sound, feel through the dark…for the scream. Pablo Neruda
I read once that show don’t tell is like showing your reader everything the movie camera sees. That is a very simplified explanation and that’s what I needed myself to get the concept. But I can boil it down more. One word: imagery. So as you write, or in your editing process…ask yourself what image are you painting for your reader? Am I painting a picture with my words or am I describing the picture?
The silent flight of raven-winged hours. -Poe
Her eyes were a poem; their every glance was a song. -Theophile Gautier
I truly believe that indie authors need to connect and network to help each other out and to get the books readers want into their hands. At present, I’m posting indie author interview on my blog, with a splash of award-winning and best-selling authors. (Award-winning author, Angela Scott; NYT best-seller, Marissa Meyer) I hope you’ll stop by Dream Weaver Novel/Tyro Writer and check them out. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your new favorite among them and have a hand in making them a household name.
Some of the Stuff I’ve Learned Along the Way
I used to say ‘unfortunately’ when I told people it took me five years to write my first book. But I can’t do that anymore. I realized that those five years were a journey of learning for me, and my spongy grey mass has absorbed a plethora of information from writer’s conferences, research, studying English composition…
I’ve always been a bit of a teacher. I was a Sunday school teacher for several years and an adult study leader for a few more. All of this learning, I feel, has put me in a position to help others. It has always been something that pressed on my heart – the desire to help others. My blog, Dream Weaver Novels/Tyro Writer, was set up with the desire to help other indie authors along the way, so maybe their own journey won’t take them five years.
I wanted to do something a little different than what I’ve been doing on this blog hop. I’ve answered a lot of questions about my writing process, favorite books/authors…that kind of thing. So, I’m being a little silly to start off with.
Any pets that you would like to tell us about, share a pic?
Our house has been quite a menagerie at times. We’ve had all kinds of critters roaming around. Right now, we have a beagle named after a vacuum cleaner; a crested gecko named after a character on Criminal Minds; and two obnoxious cats—one named after the last weekday; and one named ‘cat’ in Japanese.
What are your pet peeves?
Most Spokane drivers. Mean people. Definitely not an all-inclusive list.
White wine or red?
Merlot. I guess that qualifies as red. ???
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Definitely. Amoretto breves are my downfall.
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
Bubble Gum (Baskin Robbins is best. Sorry. I’m a bit of a non-conformist.)
Sleep in or get up early?
I’m a horrible night owl. I’ve been known to stay up writing or reading until the sun comes up in the morning.
One of your favorite quotes:
Just one? There are so many. I have this great little notebook that I decorated myself that holds all of my quotes…that is after I gather up all of the post-it notes and receipts I wrote them on.
“We never touch someone so lightly that we never leave a trace.” Maya Angelou
“It’s never too late to be what you should have been.” George Elliot
List 3 books you just recently read and would recommend?
Rot & Ruin – Jonathan Maberry
Scarlet – Marissa Meyer
Wanted: Dead or Undead – Angela Scott
Oh man! Two zombie books and a retold fairy tale.
List 3 of your favorite movies?
ALL of the Harry Potter movies
Labyrinth (old David Bowie movie)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (a true classic!)
Our fingerprints never fade from the lives we touch. (Robert Pattinson, Remember Me)
I’ve long thought that our North American society forces people into strict, confining boxes and roles, especially around gender. It’s very easy to see the fear and hatred that comes out when a young boy wants to wear a dress or play with a doll, a girl wants to play football, or a child or teen is thought to be gay. Homophobia is part of that–but there’s also a very strong, oppressive gender bias and control. And I think we’re all affected, and especially lesbians, gay men, transgender and intersex people.
So I found it inspiring and hopeful to learn that the Bugis people of Indonesia embrace five genders: female; male; Bissu (in which all aspects of gender are combined to make a whole. This can be intersex but isn’t always); Calabai (someone who is physically male at birth but whose gender identity is a woman, or a trans woman); and Calalai (someone who is physically female at birth but whose gender identity is a man, or a trans man).
The Bugis people believe that all five genders must coexist for universal harmony. They believe that if one of the genders is separated, the world would become unbalanced. They pray that everything–animals, plants, and people–stay connected to each other and coexist harmoniously around the world. And their acceptance of five genders for them is just normal. In this aspect, I think they are far ahead of North American culture. So much less pain and trauma, so much less trying to control and hurt other people. It’s something I hope we embrace more and more–that each of us should just be the way we are, what feels most right to us, without judgement.
I love this moving and funny speech by New Zealand politician Maurice Williamson in support of LGBT marriage. Humor really does help reach people (and so does heart-felt emotion). I am always so grateful to the people who speak up with compassion and in support of greater open-mindedness and basic rights. This was such a feel-good video to watch. If you need a little boost, check it out.
Sometimes we just need a little lightness. I love this funny video of a woman dancing to music when she thinks no on can see her.
I’m excited–and honored–to announce that my YA sci-fi/paranormal fantasy HUNTED has been shortlisted for the 2013 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award!
The release says: “This year’s short list includes some of Canada’s best-known and award-winning children’s book authors and illustrators. The Children’s Picture Book category showcases diverse illustration and story styles, ranging from elaborate fantasy worlds, rhyming wishes and dreams, to a story about doing the right thing. The Young Adult / Middle Reader category challenges its readers with science-fiction tales and trials of families.”
Hunted is in the YA category, along with The Grave Robber’s Apprentice by Allan Stratton, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, A Tinfoil Sky by Cyndi Sand-Eveland , and The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen. The 2013 winners will be announced at Etobicoke’s North Kipling Junior Middle School, 2 Rowntree Road, Etobicoke, ON at 1 p.m. on May 23, 2013.
HUNTED is also a finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy.
I believe in you. Whether or not you believe in yourself, I believe in you. I know you have good in you. You have hope, even if it’s buried, you have dreams, you have love. You have goodness that deserves to be seen and felt by others. I see that, and I believe in you.
Maybe no one ever told you that before. Or maybe you couldn’t hear them. Maybe you couldn’t tell yourself. So I will say it again: I believe in you.
I believe you have good in you. I believe you can survive the horrors you’ve gone through. I believe you can thrive. And I believe you can make a positive difference in this world. Connect to others. Enjoy life.
Some people may put you down. Some people may tear at your self-confidence, your self-esteem–but don’t you listen to them. Listen to your heart instead. Listen to your dreams. And listen to the positive voices around you. Because there will be some. Even if you can only find them in books. Or on websites. Or in new friends.
Keep listening for those voices. For the people that encourage you. And develop that in yourself. Believe in yourself. But if it’s too hard at first, if you need a little help, know this: I believe in you. And I believe you can do it.
Julie Powers Schoerke, my wonderful book publicist (and friend!) is going to be speaking May 2 – May 5 at the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference and Workshop in Oxford, Mississippi. If you get a chance, I recommend you go see her! Julie is intelligent, savvy, great at book promotion and books, and kind.
And Neil White, the founder of this project, is a celebrated author (In the Sanctuary of Outcasts) and publisher. According to Julie, she was astounded “by the frank information that he provided to those in attendance. No holds barred. He told the attendees everything any author has ever wondered and shared his pitch letter, responses he got, spreadsheets he created for his own book and the financial breakdown of how it all went for him. He’s a book publisher now, so has some interesting perspective to share when he wears that hat as well.”
He’s bringing in some terrific publishing experts and agents to speak. It sounds like it will be an extraordinary four-day event for anyone who really wants to hone their skills and do some heavy duty networking.
Please help spread the word if you can think of writers who might be interested in going to one of the most beautiful places in the country this spring!
I love this video by Random House and picture book illustrators Tad Hills, Dan Yaccarino, Chris Raschka, and Bob Staake. What a great message–to read, to unplug from TV and computers and video games, and really experience the world with all your senses, do fun activities and *live*. Experience life, not just sit passively there to be entertained.