Author Archives: margaretwelwood

About margaretwelwood

I write and edit picture books for children. "Scissortown," a fantasy tale for children between the ages of four and eight, asks two questions. First, “How would a small town—well-ordered and supremely manicured—look after invasion by a horde of pink-slippered ‘Slicers and Dicers’ who cause the townspeople to hide all their cutting tools?” And then—“How does life go on when nobody can cut anything at all?” Although it is pure fantasy, this story was written for another purpose besides entertainment—promotion of kindness and initiative in even the youngest of children. Two different inside back covers containing either a Faith-Based or a Life Application promote these qualities in the follow-up to this engaging tale. "Marie and Mr. Bee" is the story of a happy little girl who lives in a cabin in the woods, working and playing with her forest friends . . . until a not-so-busy bee entices her to neglect her work! Compassion, forgiveness, and a forever friendship follow. Marie uses a wheelchair, which is clear from the pictures. However, there is only one reference to the chair in the text—when she wheels the ailing Mr. Bee back to her cabin after his expulsion from the hive. Some people appreciate the fact that the disability is present without being the focus. Others are pleased to see someone with a disability in the role of rescuer. Like "Scissortown," "Marie and Mr. Bee" comes in two versions: a Proverbs 12:14b Version and a Regular Version. "Little Bunny's Own Storybook" answers the question, "What's a little rabbit to do when his favorite place closes for inventory?" It is a celebration of libraries, literacy, family, and the initiative and creativity of children (both human and rabbit). My books are available on Amazon. I edit non-fiction and "squeaky clean" fiction, and also help adults improve their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

Stories and Their Gifts to Children

Do stories have any rivals when it comes to learning to empathize with those who are like us—and with those who are not like us, but still have the same feelings? I’m reminded of a friend who grew up in an environment that might be termed “difficult.” He went on to become both an advocate for people with disabilities and a mediator. This man credited his people skills and empathy to the fact that, as difficult as things were at home sometimes, he was allowed to read and had access to a well stocked home library.

6-b

Who has not heard of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, the mouse that nibbled the lion’s net and set the beast free, and Little Red Riding Hood? The parables of Christ, Aesop’s fables, fairy tales, and modern stories . . . all have lessons to teach us and the children in our lives.

Perhaps there are unintentional lessons. “Little Red Riding Hood,” with its age-old warning to young girls not to talk to strangers, is all well and good, but what of the runaway cookie that gets eaten by a fox? What I learn from this story is that lying gets you dinner. ☹

Now I’d like to invite you to take a look at two of my favorites—The Berenstain Bears and the Forgiving Tree, a modern story with an overt Bible lesson, and Wilderness Cat, a realistic story with subtle, implied lessons in a pioneer setting.

Forgiving Tree

In The Berenstain Bears and the Forgiving Tree, Brother Bear is crushed when Cousin Fred accidentally damages his brand new bike. Why should he forgive? And he doesn’t—until Sister Bear finds him sulking in the tree house and points out the faded red line dividing the house in half. A fierce quarrel had led the siblings to draw the line and fume, each on their own side, until a rainstorm left them soaking and miserable—but with the quarrel behind them. Brother Bear forgives Fred, and Mama and Papa Bear reinforce the message that God requires us to forgive each other. Age-old wisdom for modern times!

If you wish to present Bible truths as such, I recommend checking out The Berenstain Bears Living Lights Series. These upbeat, contemporary stories with clear Christian messages are proving immensely popular with Christian parents and educators. What can we learn from their success?

Wilderness Cat  highlights God’s provision to a pioneer family through their faithful cat. Most young children like animals, but this quiet story held the children in the story circle particularly enthralled. I think they strongly identified with the hero, who obediently but with great difficulty gives her beloved cat to a neighbor before the family begins their 50-mile trek to Canada. I find Serena’s obedience significant, not only for the respect she shows her parents, but also because of how the story ends.

Mama says God will provide—but how is that even possible when Papa and Luke have walked back to the US to earn cornmeal for the winter, and Mama and the girls have finished the last of the food in the cupboard?

That night, Serena dreams she hears her cat crying. Or is it a dream? She opens the door to find that her pet has not only found them, he has a snowshoe hare in tow. Papa and Luke return and a feast follows, as well as a promise from Mama that they will never leave their faithful kitty behind again.

Perhaps you know older people whose stories of struggle and triumph would, if skillfully presented, interest children today.

Speaking of Biblical values, in 15 Bible Stories Not for VBS author DiAne Gates explains why some stories don’t work well for children. If you aim to re-tell Bible stories to make them more accessible to young children, this article may offer some helpful guidance.

If you prefer a more secular approach to values, I recommend Kes Gray’s Leave Me Alone: A Tale of What Happens When You Stand Up to a Bully, with its eight unlikely heroes. Their courage and determination to help a sad and frightened little victim send a giant—“so big he blocks the sun”—stomping and sneering off into oblivion. It’s a favorite of three-year-old Ellie’s. She and I love to watch the meanie stomp away, and to see the smile on the little boy’s face as he says, “I never saw him after that And I know I never will.” This simple story reminds us that we need each other, meanies can very quickly become cowards, and even the smallest of us has important work to do.

leave me alone giant             Little Croc

For a more complex plot, I believe Little Croc’s Purse is worth a look. I loved reading it to the children age five and up at our local day care. Suspense and danger kept them enthralled—will Little Croc, in his determination to act with integrity, make it past mean Murdock? The cad wants to steal the purse that Little Croc is turning in to the police station! Not to mention Little Croc’s friends, who ridicule his choice to be honest.

But there’s also internal conflict. As Little Croc makes his way to the station, he meets a crocodile wearing a sign board that says “Help Old Crocs.” How important is that? Then he sees a pair of lovely red boots–on special no less. And how about a cool glass of lemonade? Surely he could borrow from the rightful owner . . . or could he?

The author/illustrator does a beautiful job of presenting these conflicts with huge doses of humor and cuteness. And there’s also the matter of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for doing the right thing. Mrs. Doolally’s gratitude for the return of her purse is heartwarming—and so is her generosity. The story doesn’t stop there, but goes on to present some basic budgeting concepts as our hero decides how to spend, save, and share his reward money.

In addition to honesty, I suspect that most of us also want to promote empathy. I like Are You My Mother? for its portrayal of a situation young children can easily relate to. It also features repetition, which is so valuable for beginning talkers and readers; clear, expressive illustrations; and a surprising resolution to Baby Bird’s predicament.

Mother

Check out Tanglebird for a humorous, lighthearted approach to initiative and compassion, and A Storm Called Katrina for a more serious, realistic approach.

Tanglebird       Katrina

Taking Care of Sister Bear is a gentle story about a pesky baby sister that drives home a powerful truth: there is a heightened appreciation in the love we feel for those we have almost lost.

Sister Bear

Are you interested in “normalizing disability”? In Marie and Mr. Bee the hero, who just happens to use a wheelchair, is an equal and beloved partner in work and play. Her forest friends make accommodations for her without comment, and Marie pays the price for making a bad choice just as the rest of us do. Children with disabilities and their parents say they appreciate this approach. Perhaps you, too, have a statement to make about people who might be considered less important because they cannot do some of the things that many others can.

2015-10-26 Cover Working Copy

Besides “lying gets you what you want” and “people with disabilities are somehow less,” are there other themes or values you might want to avoid, or even counteract?

According to the American Psychological Association, “there are three major effects of watching violence in the media (i.e. video games/television): children may become less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others, children may be more fearful of the world around them, and children may be more likely to behave in aggressive or hurtful ways toward others.” We can surmise that books portraying violence would have the same effect.

On the other hand, I read of a study that concluded that children who watched portrayals of violent acts might or might not be more likely to commit them—it depended how the villain and victim were portrayed. If the villain was someone the viewer respected, the influence was negative. But if the violence was portrayed from the victim’s point of view, the movie could promote compassion.

Food for thought?

As we read to little ones and also create stories for them, let us also be mindful of the opportunity and privilege to share ideas of enduring value.

 

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“Live Long and Prosper”–and Grow as a Children’s Book Writer

As a young person I loved the original Star Trek series, and as a considerably less young person I enjoyed Star Trek re-runs with my husband and children. And now, having written three picture books for children, I like to think that the Science Officer on the USS Enterprise would have found the lessons learned from my first book “fascinating”–or at least “interesting.” 

2014-09-10 Square e-book cover LA

First, the story line

YAY!

  • The story was very engaging. The Slicers and Dicers reminded me of Dr. Seuss, and that you used a pet as the ultimate hero was fabulous. Even as an adult I wanted to know what would happen.
  • A delightful story with many layers of meaning.
  • The book is a sweet surprise! The story line may raise questions, but will also encourage conversation with your kids.
  • I loved it every step of the way! It is intriguing, unique and beautiful!
  • I’ve read it several times. I see more details that I like the more times I read it. I thought it was very cool how the children are distracting them with stories about nail clippers, bread knives and can openers, and the onion floating in the spaghetti sauce is so funny. It’s so different from today’s stories.
  • I have read my children many stories, but I have not read them one like this. So unique! Such depth!
  • You can have a lot of fun reading this book over and over to young ones.
  • I could easily picture adults in the late 1960’s commenting on how ‘far out’ the story is—and that is ‘far out’ in the very good sense—that capacity of boundless joyful imagination. This story had that for me and I give it a strong recommendation.

BUT …

  • Reading your story, I was left with a raft of unresolved questions which made me doubt the quality of the story as appropriate either for children or the adults who might be reading it to them. . . . I can only suggest that once you have created your stories, you take some time to read them with a more intellectually critical eye.
  • There were a few points when my son interrupted to ask why different things were happening in the book (like why the Slicers and Dicers destroying things and why no one was doing anything to stop them, or why kids’ hair was growing so fast), and I didn’t have a better answer than “because.”
  • Although an innocuous story, the book paints the large hippopotamuses as the destroyers of the town and they are tricked into leaving instead of given ways to stay and stop cutting up everything. This may promote those who are fat or heavy are destructive and not to talk it out to resolve a problem.

Lessons learned

Is this a real thing?

Some people had problems with the unrealistic Scissortown story line. And yet—no one asks why Mama Bear cooks porridge rather than venison for breakfast, or why she cooks at all, or why the Three Bears live in a house rather than a cave. I think that somehow Scissortown may be a sort of cross-genre story—both reality and fantasy—that throws some people off. My other stories have not had this problem.

My second book, Marie and Mr. Bee, has had a much smoother ride. It features a young girl who lives in a cabin in the woods, where she works and plays with the talking animals. Perhaps the “Once upon a time” nature of the story is more apparent right from the beginning. 

No one has expressed a problem with the story line in Little Bunny’s Own Storybook—Little Bunny’s call to initiative and creativity is unhindered by the lack of reading rabbits in the real world.

Weighty matters

A few reviewers expressed concern about “fat shaming” re Scissortown’s hippo-like Slicers and Dicers, a thought that had crossed my mind when writing the story. There have not been any such problems in the other books. Marie’s irritating little nemesis becomes a good friend, and the only “villains” in Little Bunny’s world—a gentle looking wolf, some very cute pirates, and, of course, the librarian who closes his favorite place for inventory—have all been well received.

How about the message?

Please note: The inside back cover (last page of the “Scissortown” e-book) offers children encouragement to show kindness and take the initiative. The faith-based version features two Bible children as examples. Some of the following comments apply to both versions, others to the faith-based only.

YAY!

  • I really enjoyed this story and loved that it had this important message for children.
  • It teaches children the importance of being responsible and using their thinking skills to solve problems.
  • A story with a message—always important for today’s “techno” young people.
  • I loved the faith based part at the back. It felt reassuring and loving to read what you have written.
  • An unexpected ending that challenged me to rethink the “shushing” of children.
  • I appreciated the many opportunities the book gave to lead into meaningful discussion, as well as the flexibility to pull various life lessons from it.
  • The message that children are important, have a voice and are contributing individuals is affirming. The ending is a beautiful reminder of the Kingdom value that Jesus places on children. Indeed—they are precious in His sight!

BUT …

  • When I read my children a story, I want them to take away more than there is to offer here. . . . The faith-based application falls short in actually offering anything that children can use to apply to daily life. The two verses offered at the end of the book do portray real biblical stories where children helped adults, but that’s the entirety of faith-based application.
  • Children are quite intelligent enough to be able to draw their own conclusions, in the same way that a congregation can draw their own conclusions from a clear exposition of Scripture often without any “application” needing to be spelled out.

Lessons learned

It’s a set-up

A few reviewers found the faith-based application at the back of Scissortown inadequate, while others found the presence of an overt application a bit surprising. Marie and Mr. Bee, on the other hand, features a Note to Parents on the inside front cover that “sets up” the reader to look for a faith-based or secular (but moral) application as s/he shares the story with the child. The last page has Marie reading to Mr. Bee from the Book of John and the Book of Proverbs, or from her and Mr. Bee’s very own storybook. This scene, with the elderly Mr. Bee sitting on Marie’s lap, a tiny and a regular teacup on the side table, and Marie’s “Tiny Sweaters Pattern Book” in the knitting basket, seems to provide a very satisfying ending.

Page 24 Proverbs 12,14b Version

Themes that work

It is interesting that the Note to Parents, outside back cover, and last scene in the story appear to be entirely adequate for the Proverbs Version of Marie and Mr. Bee. I think that’s not only because the reader has been “set up” to look for the lessons, but also because the themes of diligence in work, reaping the consequences of our actions, forgiveness, and compassion resonate with Christian readers. So does the overall theme of Scissortown—that children have important contributions to make. However, in a culture where parents and teachers are dealing with bullying and brutality, Marie’s themes of forgiveness and compassion may shine most brightly.

The themes of both books also work very well for those who prefer secular literature. Indeed, the element of choice—religious or secular—has been a strong selling point for both Scissortown and Marie. Many customers who buy these books as gifts like the option of giving different versions to different families.

Little Bunny’s love of books, his ability to solve problems with initiative and creativity, his parents’ role in supporting his efforts, and the invitation to children to write their own stories, are woven into the plot. This approach has worked very well, but is only possible where there’s only one version.

Does it appeal to kids?

  • This sweet tale will enchant any child, not least through its amusing exploration of the possible consequences of a life without scissors.
  • The kids thought it was so funny! They loved it!
  • I LOVE this book! (comment by a seven-year-old)
  • My grandson was thoroughly enraptured and wanted me to read it over and over again.
  • What a delightful children’s story – appealing to a child’s imagination and demonstrating the wonderful gift of the author’s imagination.
  • Kids everywhere will appreciate a book about “sharp things.”
  • My six-year-old son gave this book 5 stars, so I’ll honour that review. He said his favourite part was the grown-ups making a big mistake hiding all the sharp things.
  • My kids have read it over and over!

Lessons learned

From the audience 

All three books have kid appeal. I attribute this in part to what I’ve learned from sharing a variety of stories with my grandchildren, and during story circles at various venues.

From other authors

Reviewing my top picks is also helpful, as I reflect on what makes these stories work so well.

From feedback

I must also credit my small but merciless army of beta readers—family members and friends who give honest and helpful feedback.

From the pros 

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul and You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracey E. Dils have been rich sources of instruction. You may also wish to check out Sowing Seeds: Writing for the Christian Children’s Market, a good basic guide for the beginning writer by Kathleen M. Muldoon, .

How’s the artwork?

  • Illustrations are beautiful and an integral part of the whole.
  • The cover page is really nice. It grabs one’s attention from the beginning, and the illustrations are good for the kids to follow.
  • Your artist is excellent.
  • It tells a wonderful story through beautiful images, even the dastardly Slicers and Dicers!
  • Scissortown is a fun, beautifully illustrated story.
  • You and the illustrator have done a fantastic job!
  • The illustrations are captivating!

Lesson learned

The illustrations of both Coralie and Nataly have been well received, reaffirming the importance of choosing the right artist. In my experience, “the right artist” is one who is willing to follow the writer’s suggestions, but will also speak up when something doesn’t seem right, and will generously contribute his or her own ideas and vision. In World Building for a Little Girl I detail some of Coralie’s contributions to the world Marie shares with her forest friends.

In conclusion, let’s learn from the masters; pay attention to our editors, beta readers, reviewers, and audience—and enjoy the journey!

About Margaret

Propelled by the welcome question, “Grandma, can you tell me a story?” Margaret Welwood has enjoyed the journey from adult non-fiction writer and editor to children’s picture book writer and editor. In Life A (which she revisits from time to time), she edited a business magazine, a Writer’s Digest award-winning non-fiction book, and a five-star Bible study book. Now in Life B, she babysits charming grandchildren (her target audience), and writes and edits picture books for children and short non-fiction pieces for adults.

Please visit Grandma’s Bookshelf to learn about Margaret’s picture books for children, and her editing services. Margaret’s books are available on Amazon.

She invites you to connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, Linkedin and Twitter.

book-fan

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Immersion Experience–what is it about some children’s picture books that keeps little ones asking for them again and again?

Eliana reading CSMS

After all, the 1960 Green Eggs and Ham is still a runaway best seller on Amazon, and The Runaway Bunny is still a winner after 75 years. What can we learn from their success, and the success of other children’s storytellers?

In this article I explore success from the vantage point of a children’s book writer and grandmother, with links to some of my favorite stories for sharing.

Love Daddy

 

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This is what happens . . .

when a writer drives home on April 17, grateful she’s wearing her winter parka and snow boots, sees truckers chaining up, and calls her husband from the entrance to the driveway to navigate the vehicle through the snow.

Snow is high and snow is low.

It’s hard to drive and hard to go.

Sun is bright and sun is warm.

When will it do that snow some harm?

Trees are bare but ground is not.

Hopes for camping are all shot.

Spring is here, or so they say.

I know it’s true though sky is gray.

Birds will sing and grass be green.

Blooms and bright leaves will be seen.

So now I wait here in the snow,

for spring will come View from our acreageand cold will go.

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Lions, Tigers and Bears? Oh, no!—Guest Post by “Astro’s Adventures” Author Susan Day

Insights into the role of animals in children’s literature, from Aesop’s fables to classic fairy tales to modern stories.

Susan Day SMILING FACES smallerHave you ever wondered why so many children’s books have animals as their main characters?

Now, we can look at Aesop. His fables go back thousands of years and are, of course, laced with naughty foxes, silly goats and cunning rabbits. They were created to teach his audience important lessons that would help them survive and become better people.

In stories such as “The Ugly Duckling” and even “Little Red Riding Hood,” animals play an important instructional role, representing the many sides of human nature. They can be mean and sneaky like the Big Bad Wolf, or naïve and vulnerable like the Little Duckling.

However, did you know that there are other reasons why children’s authors choose animals as their characters?

Many children’s books were created to help children learn more about themselves. They focus on values such as sharing, generosity, kindness and friendship. They aim to teach children how they can best shape their characters and be happier, well-rounded people.

No race, no culture, no color, no class

Can you think of a children’s book which has an animal as the main character? There are thousands available. Was the animal of a particular race? Did he or she come from a particular religious or ethnic culture? Did the animal have a particular skin color or come from a particular class?

It’s likely that the animal was blue or purple, or perhaps green, and that he or she had no particular race or ethnic background. And, that is the author’s intention.

Limited gender, too

All animals have a gender, they have to be either male or female. However, they are not defined by their gender. They have their adventure, solve the mystery, and face their fears as an animal first, boy or girl second.

Authors choose animals because they represent none of the things above. This allows the author to create a character which is immediately identifiable to any child who reads the story. The author can start with a clean slate, as it were, on which they can mold and shape the exact scenario they want.

Children need to read stories which touch their hearts and minds. They need to be able to say, “Yes, that’s me,” when they pick up a book. When the stories are about animals, the message isn’t cluttered by whether the character is a boy or a girl or what nationality or culture it might come from.

The story can simply delight and charm, and be owned by all of its readers across the globe because it speaks directly to them all.

Children need to read books which were created to meet all their needs. They need to experience the lives and worlds of others. The use of animals is a surefire way to cut through any aspects that might stop the child from immediately identifying with the characters and their stories. They won’t look at a book and see a child from another culture or the opposite gender, and think “That’s not me, I can’t identify with them.” They’ll look at a book with a rabbit on the cover and ponder, “I think and act like him. I have done silly things and wonderful things, too. This book could be about me. I could be a hero like this character.”

About the author – Susan Day

susan Day head shot smallSusan Day is a children’s author and writer. Her blog, Astro’s Adventures Book Club, is full of ideas and tips for grandparents, parents and teachers to support them in helping children become better readers. As well, Susan has created a guide to help grandparents build a more meaningful relationship with their grandchildren through their love and passion for books.

Susan lives in country Australia with four dogs, three boss cats, three rescue guinea pigs, and an errant kangaroo. And, apart from blogging, writing and reading, she loves coffee, painting and learning to box.

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Creativity, Literacy and an Extreme Cold Warning from Environment Canada

lb-cover-2016-12-08

By describing with words and also illustrating Bunny’s book-making process, the author gives readers a detailed how-to. They can see what materials Bunny uses, hear the story he makes up, and then imitate his process. Bunny smiles as he works, displays great “pride of authorship,” and delights at the reaction of his parents.

This is an excellent story for little ones! Not only does it emphasize the beauty of reading, but also the importance of using your imagination. Beautiful illustrations and delightful rhymes!

The author uses Little Bunny to show children how to deal with a disappointing situation by doing something to change it.

The themes of creativity and literacy are those I definitely want to promote to my children. I like the extra learning opportunities sprinkled in, such as teaching the days of the week and rhyming words, without the children even knowing they’re learning.

It’s been a fun ride, and the train’s just leaving the station. I’m happy with the illustrations, grateful for the reviews that are coming in, and looking forward to taking the little guy to more schools and stores.

One thing’s for sure–this is the first book I’ve used rhyme to sell. After placing it at our local Christian bookstore, I wrote this to a man I’d met at a market:

This little rabbit calls you “friend”—

you listened to his book.

And now it’s at the Shepherd’s Fold,

where you can take a look.

Our little friend is hopping into the hearts of librarians, teachers and parents even as he charms children. Readings in honor of Family Literacy Day have provided both promo opportunities and sales.

Now comes what has been the harder part for me–online sales. I’ve been pleased with the modest sales of Marie and Mr. Bee since it went up on Ingram Spark–especially since I’ve done no direct promo re that venue. We’ll see if Little Bunny fares well there, and if the reviews on Amazon lead to more sales there and on CreateSpace.

I’m optimistic about this little rabbit, with his enthusiasm for books and creative approach to problem-solving. Hopefully he will connect with many others wishing to promote these traits in their children, students and young library patrons.

And with an “Extreme Cold Warning” from Environment Canada today (they’re calling for a wind chill close to minus 40 tonight here in Northern Alberta), how very pleasant to read a story about an animal we associate with spring!

warm-and-bright-cold-night

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Little Bunny’s Own Storybook

These are exciting times! Tommy, Tina and Katie Kat of Scissortown, and Marie and Mr. Bee will soon be joined by Little Bunny. I’m working with an inventor(!) who has found an artist online that I think has done this rabbit family justice. Like Coralie’s characters in the first two books, Nataly’s work also conveys the gentle spirit of the story. (The text will, of course, be in the white space.)

little-bunnys-own-storybook-page-2-2016-10-26

With lettuce for their salads and snacks,

and carrots for the next day’s pot,

the three continued down the path

to Little Bunny’s favorite spot:

THE LIBRARY

6-b

But alas, storm clouds are churning on the horizon. This idyllic scene is not to last–for what is a story without conflict? Indeed, how can Little Bunny aspire to join Ulysses, Robin Hood, and Nancy Drew in the Heroes Hall of Fame without a worthy villain?

But the antagonist is not one you’d expect! For Little Bunny has no Trojan War to fight, no rich to rob nor Sheriff of Nottingham to evade, and no evil genius to bring to justice.

Indeed, Little Bunny faces a stealth adversary . . . .

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For who but a librarian, whether human or rabbit, could deliver such a soul-crushing blow to our little hero?

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Will our voracious reader munch on limp lettuce and decimated dreams until that wretched inventory is done? Or, like the fire that hardens iron, will this catastrophic event spur him to initiative and creativity? Will he slog through the slough of despair and emerge triumphant, ears erect and eyes gleaming with victory?

Watch this space.

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Gorgeous Reviews–and the Process

“Marie and Mr. Bee confirms again the power of great story-telling to open up our world, teach us, and help us grow.”   ~KAB

Regular Cover Marie and Mr. Bee

 

First, let me thank everyone who helped me choose the cover. What you see here is the semi-final one, and the slight changes (addition of a sticker to the Regular Version and a small change in the wording for the Proverbs 12:14b Version) should be done soon.

And now let me share a sampling of the gorgeous reviews Marie and her forest friends have garnered, and the process behind getting them.

Thanks to an engaging story, complemented by delightful illustrations, young readers will be so busy turning pages they won’t even realize they’re taking in some of life’s most valuable truths. All sorts of important ideas pop up while Marie and her friends play and work in the forest: the power of choice, the treasure of friendship, the capabilities of “disabled” children, what kindness looks like.   ~KAB

Marie and Mr. Bee is a powerful children’s story by Margaret Welwood that has many lessons not only for children but for parents and educators.  ~GB

It teaches children the redemptive quality of a good friendship and how to be a good friend by following Marie’s example.  ~DW

I love that the main character has a handicap, but doesn’t allow it to get in her way of accomplishing good and living life with purpose.   ~LP

Reminiscent of Aesop’s fable about the Grasshopper and the Ant.   ~BV   

I think this is the first child’s book I’ve seen where the main character is in a wheelchair (although not mentioned, just by the picture) showing that a handicap doesn’t necessarily keep one from chores and fun times. . . .The pictures are adorable and I like the way lessons are subtly woven within the story—temptations, friendships, compassion, forgiveness, restoration, establishing a strong work ethic, integrity, and building one’s own character.   ~TR

I highly recommend this powerful little book.   ~CA

Please check out more comments about the  Proverbs 12:14b Version and the Regular Version.

The process? It was–no, is–long. I still have more people to contact. No mass e-mails here.

  1. I sought out like-minded authors and book bloggers on Facebook and other social media. Facebook proved the most beneficial for this exercise.
  2. I (sincerely) Liked their posts, commented on them, and shared them.
  3. I asked for permission to send a free pdf, describing the story and, if approaching them on FB, attached a picture of the cover or one of the first pages. I didn’t usually ask for a review up front, but rather for permission to send the pdf for their “consideration for review.” I mentioned that the pdf was 24 pages, mostly pictures.
  4. If the person granted permission I sent the pdf, asking for a review “if you feel the story has merit.” (I didn’t want to create a sense of obligation in those I contacted.) The pdf was often attached to a former e-mail so there would be no surprises when it came. If the pdf was going to someone I met on FB, I started by thanking them for granting me permission to send it.
  5. I followed up those who said they’d be willing to post a review, letting them know when the book would be–or if it already was–on Amazon. This e-mail was also attached to the thread, to remind recipients what they had committed to doing and to give them another chance to open the pdf. (I’m still working through the list of pdf recipients who indicated a willingness to review.)
  6. I thanked the reviewers privately unless I didn’t know who had posted the review. Yes, we’re told not to contact reviewers, but it was important to me to thank the people who’d taken the time to give their support. I did not, however, argue or comment on any of the gentle criticism I received.

Lessons learned:

  1. People respond well the personal touch, and seem to know when it’s genuine.
  2. This is a good way to find truly interested and supportive online friends.
  3. Coralie’s art helped the process by both attracting people and arousing their curiosity.
  4. Parents and caregivers of children with disabilities want these children seen as working and playing, loving and learning like everyone else.
  5. There’s a lot of goodwill out there.
  6. It pays to listen to and learn from others. One kind editor advised me against the original title, Marie and Mr. Drone, and a FB poll proved him right. Almost everyone–including the children of a beekeeper– thought of drones as machines, even when they were looking at the book cover. And Literary Strategist Tom Blubaugh has taught me much about online networking. I have not only learned from him, but learned from him how to learn from others.

“No man is an island.”   ~John Donne          boats to island

 

 

 

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Please Help Me Choose a Cover

 

 

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George thinks he’s on to something. I think so too–he managed, after due consideration, to choose the same cover his three-year-old picked. Unlike her dad, however, May did not voice any thoughtful insights before diving for the picture of her choice.

This has been a fascinating journey so far–and it’s just started. Here are a few more highlights from my Help-Me-Choose-a-Cover campaign:

The acting children’s librarian chose the one he’d be “most inclined” to pick off the shelf, and three out of four other staff followed his lead–without knowing what he’d chosen.

I was intrigued by the intensity of emotion shown by the arts centre folk as they admired their favorite–they all liked the same one, and it was different from that chosen by most of the library staff.

One of arts centre people cares for a young man who uses a wheelchair. This kind woman has agreed to read Marie before it’s published with an eye to possibly endorsing it. Not always pleased with the way people treat her client, she’s looking forward to a story about a person with a disability where the disability is accommodated for, but not the focus. The animals help Marie, she helps them, and it all works. (“Until one day . . . .”)

I have at least one more library and one more arts centre on my list–we’ll see if there’s any consistency in the results. If so, perhaps there’s a trend to some kind of literary vs. visual arts split in cover preferences.

Next week I’ll be asking the kindergarten to grade twos, as well as the staff, at the after school care where I have a story circle. (Of course I’ll ask the children one at a time without letting them know how their classmates voted.) I THINK I know which one most of the kids will pick!

Cover A shows Marie and all her forest friends around the old oak tree. I’d originally hoped they could be playing tag around the tree–a popular pastime in Marie’s world–but that would have made for a much-too-busy cover.

Cover B shows Marie on a rescue mission. The workers have expelled Mr. Bee from the hive and Marie finds him languishing in the tall grass, hiding from the militant mavens of honey production.

Cover C shows Marie and Mr. Bee enjoying a game devised by my enterprising illustrator. (Don’t you love the game board?)

Which is your favorite? Please let me know in the comments below. And–if you could ask the children in your life for their opinions as well–I’d appreciate it very much.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Categories: Journey | Tags: , | 7 Comments

From Hero to Zero and Back–with a Lesson for “Has-Beens”

Jackrabbit

I’ve never much liked the saying, “Kill two birds with one stone.” It’s descriptive of course, but it also seems a tad brutal. How about “Pluck two blossoms with one snip?” or “Feed two kittens from one bowl”? Or even “give birth to twins”? (Don’t try that one at home.)

However we phrase it, I think Lucy Rozier’s Jackrabbit McCabe and the Electric Telegraph has done it. On the surface, it’s a highly creative tall tale historical fiction picture book. (Who knew there was such a sub-genre?) But I think it’s also something else.

Jackrabbit McCabe is a hero all right. The joyful, long-legged speedster fetches ol’ Doc Dobbins to patch up the overachievers in the Double Dare Ya Club, and rounds up every child and chick when twisters come barreling through Windy Flats. He’s a sure bet at the horse races, and he leaves locomotives in the dust.

But everything changes one day when the telegraph company shows up and the mayor proposes a race. In front of the good folks of Windy Flats and many more from miles around, in front of the brass band and his cheering family and friends, Jackrabbit loses—to a machine.

Any child who’s gone from hero to zero in short order, perhaps through the birth of an oh-so-cute sibling or the loss of a friend, should be able to empathize with poor Jackrabbit. Dethroned by a newfangled contraption and feeling “lower than snake’s navel,” our has-been hero takes the slow stagecoach home. Is there even a place for him in Windy Flats any more?

Here the story takes a most encouraging turn, as the mayor suggests that the owner of the speediest legs ever might just have speedy fingers as well—and with Jackrabbit’s help, Windy Flats is soon linked to the whole country by telegraph.

This is not only a fresh approach to teaching history to young children, it’s a lesson in bouncing back. Jackrabbit never will outrun electricity, but he uses his gift of speed to operate the telegraph for the benefit of the people of Windy Flats. Perhaps you know a child in a hero-to-zero situation who would take courage from this funny, engaging tale of a young man who bounces back.

Categories: Journey | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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