Tuesday, September 1, 2020

THINK QUICK with Kirsti Call and Corey Rosen Schwartz

Hi Kirsti and Corey! Happy Book Birthday to Mootilda’s Bad Mood! We are thrilled to celebrate with you today! I love the themes of perseverance and emotional regulation that run through your story. All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

On Bad Moods:
Ignore or Embrace?

Kirsti: Embracing a bad mood and accepting it is my favorite way to turn my frown upside down.

Corey: Embrace by yelling, “I’m in a bad mooooooooooood!”

On Cows:
Personally experienced or loved them from afar?

Kirsti: My grandfather grew up on a dairy farm and filled my mind with many mooovelous cow facts.

Corey:  When my son was little, he was obsessed with farms.  If I didn’t take him, he’d have a cow!

On Mistakes:
Brush them off or take them to heart?

Kirsti: I prefer to learn from them and then moooooove on.

Corey:  Everyone makes moo-stakes.

On Parental Encouragement:
Helicopter or Free-Range?

Kirsti: I’m more of a middle of the pasture parent.

Corey:   Free-range.

On Failure:
Jump right back in or take a break?

Kirsti: I’m a fan of getting right back on the cow.

Corey:  Depends on my mood.

On Support Groups/Friends:
Cow-miserate together or handle things alone?

Kirsti: Cow-miserating is the best.

Corey:  Easy one.  Cow-miserate!

On Belly Flops:
The worst or laughable?

Kirsti: Cow-tastrohic!

Corey:  Ca-lamb-itous!

On Laughter:
The best medicine or a temporary bandage?

Kirsti: Laughter cures all ills!

Corey:  Best medicine ever!

On Trying New Things:
Never too late to learn or stick with what you do best?

Kirsti: It’s never too late to learn.

Corey:  Never too late!

On Books:
Mootilda’s Bad Mood or Mootilda’s Bad Mood?

Kirsti: Mootilda, of course!

Corey:   Over the moon for everyone to meet Mootilda!

Thank you for sharing with us, ladies! It's so wonderful to celebrate with one of our own!  

For a closer look at Mootilda, enjoy my review! You can also learn more about Kirsti, Corey, and Mootilda on their blog tour:

August 17   The Story Behind the Story

August 19   Grog

August 24    Kidlit Oasis

August 28    deborahkalb.com

September 1 ReFoReMo

September 1 Picture Book Look Podcast

September 2  Future Bookworms

September 4  Perfect Picture Book Friday 

September 10  https://www.nancychurnin.com/

September 12 Will Writer For Cookies

September 15  Writer’s Rumpus

September 25 Mining for the Heart

Kirsti Call is the co-coordinator of ReFoReMo. She reads, reviews, revises and critiques every day as a 12x12 elf, a blogger for Writers' Rumpus, and a member of critique groups. She's judged the CYBILS award for fiction picture books since 2015. Kirsti's picture book, MOOTILITA'S BAD MOOD (Little Bee) debuts fall 2020.  COW SAYS MEOW (HMH) and COLD TURKEY (Little Brown) release in 2021. Kirsti is represented by Emma Sector at Prospect Agency.

@kirsticall (instagram)
Kirstine Erekson Call (facebook)
@kirsticall (Twitter)

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and several other rhyming picture books and fractured fairy tales. Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ.

Twitter: @CoreyPBNinja

Tuesday, August 25, 2020


By Cindy Williams Schrauben 

I recently posted a poll on our Facebook page. The vast majority of you responded that you could use help in finding mentor texts that share the same story structure as your own work. I will, therefore, use our lists (HERE) to give you a few examples of how you might go about that.


First, let me give you an idea what I mean by ‘story structure.’ There are a numerous ways to go about telling a story. Some of them include:



Linear (days of the week, hours, months, seasons, etc.)

Refrains (although this is a writing ‘technique’, it is often described as a structure, as well)



Journey (goal to completion or solving a problem)

Progression (alphabet, numbers, etc.)


Let’s look at MOOTILDA’S BAD MOOD by our own Kirsti Call and Corey Rosen Schwartz (illustrated by Claudia Ranucci  -- release date: 9-1-20). Identifying story structure is, of course, easy to see in retrospect, but let’s pretend we are the authors starting with a concept. That concept could be in the form of a main character (a grouchy animal), a problem (her mood), a phrase (I’m in a bad mood), etc. From here, it is helpful to access our ReFoReMo files and find mentor texts that share this general concept. For Mootilda, I would identify the following story structures: Journey, Circular and Refrains. Since, we already have files for Refrains (HERE) and Circular Plots (HERE) we will concentrate on those.


Because Mootilda’s refrain is so integral to the story, we should look for other PBs that also use them for tension, mood, and personal growth. THE BAD SEED by Jory John and Pete Oswald fits that bill. Not only does this story use refrains, Mootilda and the Seed share a similar bad attitude and journey. Choosing a mentor text with a similar tone starts you off in the right direction. For me, a mentor text can accomplish a great deal by helping me ‘visualize’ the tone of the story. I think this mentor text would have been helpful in a variety of ways.

On the flip side, although BEAR SNORES ON (by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman) also includes refrains, I wouldn’t use it as a mentor text for Mootilda because the tone, audience, and voice are much different. It’s a balancing act.


Rosen Schwartz and Call have also used a circular structure for this story (which works beautifully with the refrain). Mootilda starts her day claiming, “I’m in a bad mood”. Her growth throughout the story enables her to address the ‘“I’m in a bad mood’ twist at the end. You’ll have to read this charmer to see what I mean.


In our document entitled Circular Plots, you will find, IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T by Elise Parsley. This begins and ends with the statement ‘Your teacher does not want you to bring an alligator to schools.’ Although it circles back in a different way than MOOTILDA’S BAD MOOD, it has other similarities that might inform the authors. For example, they both feature silly antics by animal main characters. The initial ‘problem’ continues to drive the point across and accelerate the tension, and I would argue that one detail  (Magnolia’s name on the board) could be seen as a refrain of sorts, as well.


So, when choosing mentor texts, don’t forget to use our files and read, read, read. Each story has multiple avenues to explore and the choice isn’t always simple, but the process is always enlightening.



Tuesday, August 18, 2020

ReFoReMo Mini-Monthly Writing Challenge: Birds of a Feather

The birdies have been leaving me little gifts of feathers on my morning walks. That gave me the 

idea for this month's challenge. You guessed it. Write a story about a feather.

By Farhana Zia

Farhana Zia is the author of Lali's Feather and comments about writing her book in this 

interview with Peachtree Publishing. Lali finds a feather in the field. Is little feather lost? Lali sets 

out to find it a home. When no one wants the little feather, Lali decides to keep it. Using her 

imagination cause the other birds to realize the value of the little feather. 

"Lali found a feather in the field. 

Whose feather? 

She did not know. 

It was a sweet feather, though.

Oo ma! Was little feather lost? 

Lali set out to find feather a home.


By Rachel Noble

Rachel Noble wrote Finn's Feather after the loss of her son. In an interview, Rachel said, "

think Finn’s Feather looks at grief in an innocent and tender way, but I also love that it looks at 

broader themes such as empathy and resilience–all children can benefit from Finn’s story."

Finn knows his brother is gone. But he also knows that Hamish sent the beautiful white feather

on his doorstep.Finn runs to shows his mother the feather from Hamish, but she only gives him a

big hug. In school, Finn’s teacher responds similarly. Why isn’t anyone as excited as he is?

Finn sits quietly, cradling the beautiful, amazing feather. “Why did Hamish give it to you?” asks

his friend, Lucas. “Maybe he wanted to say hi?” wonders Finn. “Maybe,” Lucas says, “Hamish

wanted you to have fun with it.”

By Mem Fox

"Long ago and far away, in a rambling garden beside a clear blue lake, two flocks of birds began

 to fear each other because of their differences. The fear grew, and soon the birds became

 enemies, hoarding great quantities of weapons to protect themselves--until panic struck and 

the chance for peace seemed lost forever."

"In a rambling garden, long ago and far away, there lived a pride of magnificent peacocks.

Nearby, in the rushes and reeds of a clear blue lake, dwelt a flock of elegant swans."

Take a walk to get ready for this challenge.  Who knows, you might find your own feather to 

write about.  Let your imagination fly away.  Happy writing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

THINK QUICK with Josh Funk

Hi Josh! Yay for SHORT AND SWEET! I love how the adventures of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast continue in this 4th book that focuses on friendship and forgiveness.  

All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book. Let’s see which way you lean. Remember, THINK QUICK!

On Breakfast foods:
Cereal or waffles?
My brain says cereal but my heart says waffles.

On pastries:
French toast or Pancakes?
I can't decide. That's like asking me to pick my favorite child.

On youth serums:
Essential or superfluous?

On friendship:
Many acquaintances or few close friends?
Many acquaintances.

On adventure:
Love it or leave it?
Loave it. 

On forgiveness:
Immediate or it takes a few days?
I wish it was immediate, but it takes a few days.

On Mistakes:
Apologize or ignore?
Definitely apologize.

On Failure:
Try again or take a break?
Try again. Try again. Try again. Take a break. Try again.

On Sequels:
Better than the original or they just keep coming?
Better and better.

On Books:
Short and Sweet or Short and Sweet?
Long and savory.

About Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast: SHORT & SWEET.

Josh Funk is a software engineer and the author of books like the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, the It's Not a Fairy Tale series, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series, the A Story of Patience & Fortitude series, Dear Dragon, Pirasaurs!, Albie Newton, and more. For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook at @joshfunkbooks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Mentor Text Author Study: Revisiting Kevin Henkes

Kevin Henkes is the winner of the 2020 Children’s Literature Legacy Award that honors an author or illustrator published in the United States, whose books have made a significant and lasting contribution to literature for children. A few years ago, I wrote a mentor text author study featuring his books. Today I’ll look at a few picture books published since then.

His picture book series, When Spring Comes, In the Middle of Fall, Winter Is Here and Summer Song, illustrated by Laura Dronzek, introduces the seasons to a very young audience. In each book children explore and the outdoors and experience what each season brings through text and pictures.

Henkes invites kids to observe their surroundings. The sparse poetic text is filled with imagery, repetition, and alliteration. 

Before the Spring comes,

The trees look like black sticks against the sky.

…the sky is mostly gray

and the air is chilly,

…and the apples are like ornaments…


 Winter is here

  It’s everywhere.

  It’s falling from the sky.

If you slow down and think about it, you can feel the Summer Song.

It’s warm

and then hot

and then hotter.


Picture books by Henkes are stellar examples of how to capture wonder in words for a young audience.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Mentor Text Talk with Carrie Finison

Through the many years that I have known and interacted online with Carrie Finison, she has always had a helpful, knowledgeable spirit. I am excited to learn more from her and feature her debut picture book, Dozens of Doughnuts, which released on July 21. I was lucky to read and critique early versions of this story, once in 2015 and then again in 2017. Notice the two year gap between critiques? There's proof in the pudding for ya! Patience and persistence pay off on the road to publication. We are lucky to catch a few wisdom doughnuts from Carrie today. 

How do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?

I use picture books for both inspiration and guidance. Books by authors like Ame Dykman and Jesse Sima inspire me to push my plots and come up with surprising endings. Books by authors like Diana Murray, Kim Norman, and Karma Wilson challenge me to hone my rhyming skills. Books by authors like Laura Gehl, Beth Ferry, and Marcie Colleen delight me with their wordplay and make me think, “I wish I could write like that.” They give me something to strive for.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS?

I looked at MANY books while writing DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS. The two that stand out in my mind are BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson and A VISITOR FOR BEAR by Bonny Becker. Both of these books are about bears who have unexpected – and perhaps somewhat unwelcome – visitors, and both solve the problem in a sweet way that reinforces the connections between the characters, as I wanted to do with the ending of my book. As I was writing DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, I especially pictured in my mind the illustrations from BEAR SNORES ON, which is also about a bear and a passel of woodland animal friends. I hoped my book would have a similar cozy feel, visually, and tried to channel that feeling into my writing. At the same time, I wanted to make sure my book stood out from that story, so I made sure that all my animals were different! As a bonus, all of my animal characters, except for Topsy the opossum, are hibernators, which makes for a great launching point for teachers to talk about hibernation and how different animals cope with winter.

I also looked for books that included a math element. In DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS, each batch of 12 doughnuts is divided evenly by the factors of 12 – first 2 then 3, 4, and 6. I had read the book THE DOORBELL RANG by Pat Hutchins many years before but forgotten about it. I was delighted to discover it again during the drafting process as it holds many parallels to my book. It also led me to discover a trove of math-oriented picture books that I don’t think I would have known about otherwise.

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

I feel lucky that when I started writing picture books I had kids who were still in picture book age and I could read aloud to them. (They’re now 11 and 14, which tells you something about how long it can take to get published. But I digress.) It made me realize that what attracts me to a book is the language – rhyme, wordplay, puns, onomatopoeia, made up words, lyricality – to me, these are what make a book stand up and sing, and make me want to read it over and over again. And that’s the kind of book I strive to write, too.

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

In addition to general inspiration as I mentioned above, there are many other practical ways where I’ve found mentor texts helpful. They especially help when I’m struggling to come up with a satisfying ending, or to get to that ending in a satisfying way. When I have these kinds of plot problems, I look for other books with a similar structure and/or theme to see how those authors handled it. The trick is to find them, because books aren’t organized by theme in very many places. That’s why I’m so grateful for a resource like ReFoReMo. It helps with the legwork of seeking out mentor texts and helps me find books I might not have come across in my own searches. I love that we can all support each other and share some of the true picture book treasures that are out there waiting to be discovered.

Thank you so much for being here, Carrie, and congratulations on Dozens of Doughnuts! 

 Carrie Finison writes picture books with humor and heart, including DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (2020) and the forthcoming books DON'T HUG DOUG (2021) and HURRY, LITTLE TORTOISE (2022). She lives in the Boston area with her family. 

Connect with her online at www.carriefinison.com or on Twitter @CarrieFinison, Facebook at carrie.finison, or Instagram @carriefinison.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

ReFoReMo Mini-Monthly Writing Challenge: Bee-utiful

By Janie Reinart

“Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.”
                                                                                                                       ~ John Muir

Our gardens are blooming and buzzing with our pollinators--our bee-utiful honey bees.
Do you know these bee facts? Your challenge is to write about these busy bees.

bee must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey? 

It requires 556 worker bees to gather a pound of honey. 

Bees fly as far as five miles for food.

By Kirsten Hall

This is a story poem about the honey bees of one hive from spring to spring. The end pages are bee stripped. The author's note states, "The honeybee is one of our world's most marvelous creatures. And sadly, it's in danger. In writing this book, I was hoping you might grow a new appreciation for the honeybee--and that you'll join me in caring about its future."

A field.
A tree.
Climb it and see...
For miles, all around you,
grow wild and free

But then ...
What's that?
Do you hear it? 
You're near it.

It's closer,
it's coming,
it's buzzing,
it's humming...

By Craig Smith

From the bestselling author and illustrator behind the million-copy The Wonky Donkey book comes Willbee the Bumblebee, a catchy rhyme with sweet illustrations that will leave you buzzing! 

"Willbee the bumblebee is so embarrassed when he realizes that his black-and-yellow jacket has caught on a rose thorn and completely unraveled, showing his bare bum! With help from Monica the butterfly and Steve the spider, Willbee recovers his jacket and is back to buzzing around the garden in no time."
Willbee the bumblebee

lives his life in your garden
             so happily.

Up early in the morning
                   til the evening hour.

Flying around
           from flower to flower.

Now everyone knows, I suppose
without bees in your garden, nothing grows.

By Shabazz Larkin

This is a love poem from a father to his two sons comparing bees to rambunctious children and a tribute to the bees that pollinate the foods we love to eat. "Children are introduced to different kinds of bees, “how not to get stung,” and how the things we fear are often things we don’t fully understand." 

Here's the thing about bees. Sometimes bees can be a bit rude.
They fly in your face and prance on your food. They buzz in the bushes
and buzz in your ear. 
They sneak up behind you and feel you with fear.
And worst of all they do this thing
called sting.  Ouch!

Go out to the garden and enjoy the bees and the flowers. Get buzzing and write a sweet story about our bee-utiful bees.