Exploring Indie Bookstores: Munro’s Books

Hello Kid Lit Village readers! Are there any indie bookstores in your neighbourhood? We are super fortunate in Victoria British Columbia to have several indie bookstores in our city. I plan to feature a new bookstore each month with a peek inside at the children’s section of each store. Munro’s Books is an iconic store in Victoria, B.C. and for all readers it is a must-visit. Located on government street, it has an impressive entrance.

And on first entering, it might seem small but make your way to the back and you’ll find the children’s section is well stocked with little areas focusing on different kinds of books.

Here is one of Munro’s Bookstore display windows. Sometimes I imagine if my book could be in there with Forest Baby, Little Pinecone, Jessie’s Island and Sea Otter Pup. I love it that they devote a picture window fully to children’s books.

There’s so much more to see in here so you’ll have to come and visit yourself. If you do, Murchie’s Tea and the Irish Times Pub are right there on the same street. Here is just one wall from the picture book section. There’s so much room for covers that face out, which is another thing I love about this store. I love the mix of classics with newer titles!

What is your favourite indie book store and where is it located? Share in the comments!

Kid Lit Village: LET’S BE FRIENDS

Hello and welcome to Kid Lit Village blog. I’m delighted to feature this adorable board book, LET’S BE FRIENDS by Violet Lemay, published by Harper Collins.

Synopsis: This lift-the-flap board book filled with warm and lively illustrations by Violet Lemay teaches toddlers all about friendship.

We’re different! We’re the same! Can we be friends? Of course we can! 

Friends can come from anywhere. Friends can live in any kind of house. Friends can be different ages. Friends can look different. And friends can have different faiths. 

This sweet board book celebrates friendship and the importance of embracing our differences. It joyfully shows diverse children from all over the world and teaches a valuable lesson: we are all just people and we are all worthy of friendship.

Welcome to the Kid Lit Village blog, Violet!

Tell us about the inspiration for your book or the story of how your book came to be.
My family and I moved from the US to New Zealand in 2015, where we lived for five years. This gorgeous, diverse, peaceful country was devastated by a mass shooting in a mosque in 2019. Guns are not an issue in New Zealand, it’s nothing like the US in this regard. There is no gun violence, at all. Mass shootings are unheard of. The event was so horrible and shocking that it sent the entire nation reeling. 
I couldn’t stop wondering why our differences matter. Does it really matter that people look different, come from different places, worship differently? Aren’t we all ultimately the same? This swirl of questions became the inspiration for a proposed lift-the-flap board book, What Matters?, in which every spread showed people with different opinions, different life-styes, physical differences etc, and asked the question “Does it matter?”. Under the flap, the answer was always some form of “No!”. My agent pitched the idea to HarperCollins, where an amazing editor took an interest. She shared the proposal (which included a PDF dummy with complete color sketches) in a meeting, and apparently the project sparked conversation. My agent relayed their feedback: A person’s ethnicity, color, and religion do matter—they shape each person’s worldview! The agent asked me to pivot and send a revision. After a month of thinking and hand-wringing, I rewrote (and redrew) the book. The question changed from “Does it matter?” to “Can they be friends?”. I was very happy with the change. Not only did it make more sense, but the answer under the flap was always some version of YES, adding to what I hope is a loving, joyful, positive message. 

I must share with you that as an educator of young children, I’ve had many classes with diverse make-ups. The differences are more obvious some years but they are always there, whether it is based on skin colour or favourite foods, temperament or family composition or something else. This book will be valuable to teachers everywhere!

Tell us how you build yourself up in the face of rejection.
I was lucky enough to work as an art director for a small independent publisher for five years (during which I was also writing and illustrating), which gave me an insider’s look at how manuscripts are selected. I learned that there are a million reasons why an idea can be rejected that have nothing to do with the book proposal or the skill of the author. This experience helps me keep some emotional distance from the success or failure of my projects. I try to think of rejection as redirection. If my book doesn’t fit the list of Publisher A for whatever reason, great! I can cross that one off the list and move on to Publisher B. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit, like dating. I also think it’s tremendously important to always be searching for new ideas to develop, so that you’re always busy pitching more than one idea. Perpetual idea development is part of my lifestyle. The more ideas you put out there, the greater the odds that one will get picked up! If I’m feeling particularly discouraged about a rejection, I focus my attention on a new idea, which generally cheers me right up. I think it’s very important to stay positive. If you’re feeling down about a particular rejection, focus on whatever makes you happy. Later, when you’re feeling more removed from the rejected project, you can look at it with fresh eyes and see if it needs some tinkering before sending it off to the next publisher on your list.

Picking up on your comment of looking at it with fresh eyes, I’ve been using that in my querying strategy. When I receive a rejection, I make sure I review it before sending out the next query. I do think it helps to do that at a time when you’re feeling less disappointed about the rejection.

What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope that parents and children who read Let’s Be Friends will learn not to fear people or avoid people who are different to them, but will instead embrace and celebrate diversity. My hope for all of my books is that the children who interact with them will feel loved & accepted. 

I think this could become a well-loved book in may preschool/kindergarten classrooms well and a great way of celebrating diversity!

Website Linkvioletlemay.com
Twitter Link:  bit.ly/violetTweets

Violet Lemay

Readers, thank you for stopping by Kid Lit Village this week!

Did you know, I’ve written a couple of books too?

Cynthia Mackey

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Kid Lit Village: GOOD NIGHT (not really)

Hello Lovely Readers! I’m glad you stopped by Kid Lit Village today. I hope you have something nice to drink with you and you’ll settle in for a chance to read this interview with author, Nan Evenson and the feature on her children’s book, GOOD NIGHT (not really). The book is illustrated by Karina Matkevych and published by Olympia Publishers. And please come back regularly on Mondays for more Kid Lit Village interviews!

Good Night (Not Really): Let’s Count Forward AND Backward was published by Olympia/London and their children’s imprint, Bumblebee, on Sept 30, 2021. 

Synopsis: Charlie and Lisa are charming guides, helping children count not only to ten but backward as well. Good Night (Not Really): Let’s Count Forward AND Backward is actually a good morning book. This is the first book in the Not Really series. The picture books offer fresh ways for children to expand their math skills (including counting by 2’s and 5’s), surprise endings, and gorgeous illustrations. The next book, The Terrible Day (Not Really): Let’s Count by 2’s, will be out in spring 2022.

Nan Evenson

Welcome to the blog, Nan! We’d love to hear more about why you write books for children.

I write books for children, not only so they can learn and experience new things, but because a great picture book connects children and the readers who care about them in head and heart ways. I hope children learn to count backwards and see how friendly numbers can be. I want children and their readers to smile together when they see elephants dancing on the bed in a clompy, stompy elephant way. I hope children and their readers can look at each other and share a moment or two of genuine connection. 

I picked up writing about three years ago. (Note to Wanna be Writers of a certain age – go ahead and just start!)  My first book was a young adult western, and writing it was tremendous fun. For various reasons, it wasn’t the right time to publish it, but I wanted to keep writing. Some of my short stories had already been published, but I hadn’t thought about picture books. We have four children, and two young granddaughters. I tutor math with teens and picked up studying it a few years ago just because I like it.

How did you come up with the idea for GOOD NIGHT (not really)?

I was cleaning out our bookshelves looking for books for my grandchildren one afternoon. It struck me how many “good night” books we had and how few – zero, to be exact – math kind of books (beyond counting one to ten) and good morning books were on the shelves. I also knew that out of the many kids I had tutored over the years, I could count on two hands the students who actually enjoyed mathematics.

I thought:  Why not help kids start earlier on math concepts, make it fun, and how about a “good morning” book that can be read anytime of day?  I hired an extraordinary young Ukrainian illustrator, Karina, via Upwork, and together we created what we think is a magical book.

Books with math concepts are a passion for me. I loved math in school and see the practical applications of how we use it every day. It’s nice to see more children’s books that highlight mathematical concepts.

Tell us a bit about your path to publication.

Some of your readers may not know about the “hybrid” option of publishing, which is what I chose. With traditional publishing, the publisher pays for the process of creating the book, distributes, markets it, and pays out x% royalties. Writers generally need an agent for the traditional model, and the publisher will make changes as they see fit. With self-publishing, the writer pays for and does everything, keeping all profits.

In between those two poles are a few other options, one of which is hybrid publishing. With this option, the writer pays x amount to a publisher (mine is Olympia out of London) to do much of the work of creating and distributing the book, while maintaining artistic decision-making rights and getting paid royalties.  With all three options, the writer will have to take on a good amount of marketing, dreaded by many (but do-able, I’ve found).  And I’m so honored to have just gotten a 5-star review from the respected “Readers’ Favorite” site.

I am extremely happy with my choice. Olympia has been outstanding to work with, and my book gets international distribution.  Selling the book is important, of course, but I think what many authors want, myself included, is to have their book read and appreciated. Maybe a child will even find a little joy in counting backwards.

Nan, it’s great to know more about the hybrid option. Traditional publishing may not be for everyone. I’d suggest that anyone thinking about it do a lot of research and join SCBWI to learn more about writing and publishing for children before deciding what’s best for you personally.

Learn more about Nan’s book here.

Cynthia Mackey

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith, please subscribe to my newsletter.


Kid Lit Village Review: OUT OF A JAR

Dear blog readers,

Welcome to the Kid Lit Village blog! I’m so happy you stopped by today. On Fridays I post book reviews. Today I’m reviewing OUT OF A JAR by Deborah Marcero. I like to keep my reviews short and to the point so that it is easy to read and get the books you want.

This book is one of the most powerful I know for helping children and families acknowledge and deal with big feelings. The scene where the jars can hardly fit into the closet is THE BEST!

5 Stars

What are your favourite picture books for social and emotional learning? Please share in the comments!

Exploring Indie Book Stores: Russell Books

Hello Kid Lit Village Readers! And welcome to my series on indie book stores. We are fortunate in Victoria, B.C. to have several independent book stores. Russell Books might arguably be the most special of the bunch. It is located on Fort Street in downtown Victoria. And though it might not look like much from the outside, it has TWO gigantic floors full of new and used books to explore. April 29th is Independent Book Store day so it seems like a great day to kick of the series.

Here is the street level entrance for Russell Books. You might not expect a large store but walk in and discover how much floor space it has! There is a second floor below ground that holds most of the children’s section.

Could my book, IF A BUMBLEBEE LANDS ON YOUR TOE, be in this window one day?

Here is one of the huge floor to ceiling shelves in the children’s section! Not much space for facing out titles, but with new AND used books, they are filled to the rim.

On the main floor, there is another space dedicated to children’s books.

And this is the Harry Potter section, which you’ll find downstairs! Impressive!

Russell books seems to be the one indie bookshop in Victoria that can get those special order titles. So if you’re trying to find a book and can’t seem to get it anywhere. Try here!

What’s your favourite indie book store? Share in the comments!

And I hope you’ll come back for future posts on some other local indie book stores! Have a wonderful day.

Kid Lit Village: author, Janet Halfmann

Hello Readers, and Welcome to Kid Lit Village! Today we have an interview with Janet Halfmann, who has not one, not two, but three new books releasing in 2021! Her books WHO IS SINGING? (summer 2021), YAY FOR BIG BROTHERS! (Nov. 2021), and CATERPILLAR’S SURPRISE (Dec. 2021) are a perfect fit for the blog, where I often feature nature themed picture books. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about Janet and her latest books.


Who Is Singing? came out this summer from Pen It! Publications, with pictures by Chrissy Chabot. 

Have you ever heard a bird whistle wheet, wheet, wheet, birdie, birdie, birdie? That’s the song of a cardinal. Every bird’s song is different. Bird songs often sound like familiar words. That makes it easier for us to tell Who Is Singing?

This book is a celebration of birds and their songs. Young children love hearing and repeating the sounds that animals make. While enjoying the musical sounds of birds, children will learn that the song of each bird is different. Children may even learn to recognize some of the songs. 


Yay for Big Brothers! released Nov 2 from Arbordale Publishing, with pictures by Shennen Bersani.

Big Brothers are amazing! Did you know that big brothers are important in animal families, too? Animal big brothers do many of the same things as kid big brothers. They play with their younger siblings, teach them new things, and help with their care. Sometimes animal big brothers even babysit when their parents leave to hunt for food. Are you a big brother or do you have a big brother?

Caterpillar’s Surprise comes out December 2 from Black Rose Writing, with pictures by Emily Krueger.

A masquerade ball with a blue ribbon! Caterpillar dreams of winning, but wonders how she can since she is just a baby. Tadpole convinces her that her natural baby disguise as bird poo is perfect. 

As Caterpillar grows, her look changes, and she worries again. Tadpole tells her she now looks like a scary snake, and is sure to win! Then . . . just weeks before the ball, Caterpillar spins a chrysalis and hangs unmoving from her tree. Now, even Tadpole (who is changing into a frog) is worried.

Will Caterpillar break out of her chrysalis in time? And if she makes it to the ball, will she still think winning is the most important thing of all?

​Please welcome Janet Halfman to the Kid Lit Village blog!

Janet Halfmann is an award-winning children’s author who strives to make her books come alive for young readers and listeners. Many of her picture books are about animals and nature. She also writes picture book biographies about little-known people of achievement. Janet has written more than forty fiction and nonfiction books for children.

Janet Halfmann

Before becoming a children’s author, Janet was a daily newspaper reporter, children’s magazine editor, and a creator of coloring and activity books for Golden Books. She is the mother of four and the grandmother of seven. When Janet isn’t writing, she enjoys gardening, exploring nature, visiting living-history museums, and spending time with her family. She grew up on a farm in Michigan and now lives in South Milwaukee, WI.

Congratulations on these three lovely books, Janet!

Tell us why you write books for children.

I write books for children because I like telling stories. I also enjoy sharing amazing things I learn in a fun or creative way. 

I also love working with words. I enjoy looking for just the right word to make a sentence have a rhythm or be fun to say or hear.

A love for words and stories is so important for a picture book writer when every word counts!

Tell us about the inspiration for your books.

I got the inspiration for WHO IS SINGING? by listening to the cardinals in the trees near our home. Now, everyone in my family knows that a walk with me means stopping to find and listen to every bird we hear!

I was inspired to write YAY FOR BIG BROTHERS! when our toddler grandson became a big brother. Becoming a big brother is not always easy, and I thought all big brothers needed a book to celebrate them. I focused on animal big brothers because I think it is comforting to children to know that animals go though many of the same experiences as they do.

CATERPILLAR’S SURPRISE: I was inspired to write this story about caterpillars and butterflies and metamorphosis after watching monarchs and tiger swallowtails and more flutter around our backyard. The more I learned about butterflies and their amazing lives the more enamored I became. Then after an editor read my butterfly story, she suggested that I add a frog and have the two grow up together. And so was born this story of a caterpillar and a tadpole who become friends and share adventures as they face big changes together.

Janet, I love how your inspiration comes from both children, and the nature around you.

Tell us how you build yourself up in the face of rejection.

Like most people, I’m disappointed when I get a rejection, but I always have enough projects in the works that I don’t have much time to dwell on a rejection. If something gets rejected a few times, I take a close look at it to see if I can somehow make it better. 

Having multiple projects is particularly important for picture book authors, I would agree!

What do you hope children will gain from your books?

Most of all, I hope kids enjoy my books. I also hope that my stories help children lead richer, fuller lives, make them more understanding of others, and help them appreciate all of nature. 

Janet, I love it that your first focus is for children to enjoy your books. This will hopefully result in a lifelong love for reading.

Website: https://www.janethalfmannauthor.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janethalfmann 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JanetHalfmann 

Thanks for stopping by Kid Lit Village this week! I hope you’ll stop by on Monday for another interview.

Did you know, I’ve written a couple of books too?

Cynthia Mackey

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey and Paula Nasmith, please subscribe to my newsletter.

Haiku Saturday: Beach Rocks

Do you ever wonder what stories these rocks could tell? Tumbled smooth by the sea, each one has it’s own journey. Our nature preschool class LOVES collecting stones, sorting them, and identifying them! Granite? Sandstone? Quartz? What kind of rock is this?

Happy Saturday! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

Kid Lit Village Review: THE MAGIC BOAT

Dear Readers,

Welcome to Kid Lit Village blog! I’m so glad you stopped by. On Fridays, I post reviews of children’s books. Today I am happy to review THE MAGIC BOAT by Kit Pearson, Katherine Farris and Gabrielle Grimard.

I bought this book because we have a real boat in our preschool playground and I knew this book could inspire children’s play. The Magic Boat is a friendship story designed specifically for shy children. This book will spark creativity!

5 Stars

What are your favourite picture books for inspiring creative play? Please share in the comments!

Kid Lit Village: HELLO, MEADOW

Hello Lovely Readers! I’m glad you’re back here on Kid Lit Village blog and I hope you’re ready for another great interview. Today we have the creator of HELLO, MEADOW, Terry Pierce. She’s going to answer a few questions about this lovely book, illustrated by Nadja Sarell. The book is published by Yosemite Conservancy. Terry’s book is a great fit for me, as it promotes a connection to the natural world in a fun way. As an added bonus, we have a giveaway and you can enter to win a copy! Details at the end of the post.

Welcome to the blog, Terry! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Cynthia, thank you for inviting me to talk about our new board book with Yosemite Conservancy Publishing, Hello, Meadow! (illustrated by the talented Nadja Sarell). We’re SO excited to put this book out into the world to help empower little ones to enact real change in the world. I know, that might sound a bit lofty for the board book audience, but really, if a very young child can remind their parents or siblings to do something as simple as staying on a path as they’re hiking near a meadow, that’s progress in environmental education and a win for everyone!

What appeals to you about writing books for children?

When I first began writing, I would have said it was working in my fuzzy slippers ;), but after twenty-four years, I can’t distill it down to such a single simple pleasure (although I still work in slippers!). I think what appeals to me most about writing are two main things. First, having a creative outlet in which I can let my mind meander and ultimately land on an idea I’m excited to write—then execute the writing by playing and experimentation. I love trying different words and sentences, tasting their sounds on my tongue until I feel I’ve found a fun and engaging way to convey what I’m thinking. Second, I love knowing that I’m having a positive influence on children’s lives. When I taught Montessori pre-primary classes decades ago, I recognized how much influence I had on my individual students, so I did everything I could do to prepare them for life and school beyond their Montessori education. When I retired from teaching, I still wanted to help children and bring good things to their lives, which was one reason I chose to write.

Tell us about the inspiration for your books. 

For me, inspiration comes from all places (my ceiling fan once inspired me to write a picture book!), but lately, I draw much inspiration from nature. My husband and I moved from the desert to the gorgeous eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2019, where I’m surrounded by some of the most beautiful country in the world. I live in a place of wild animals, towering trees, and dynamic waterways, which always stir up story ideas in my head. I’m very fortunate!

With Hello, Meadow!, the idea actually came from the publishers at Yosemite Conservancy. We were tinkering with another story idea I’d had, when they asked me if I would be interested in writing a book with a similar structure as our first book, Eat Up, Bear!, but instead about meadow conservation. Of course, I said yes! I dove into researching meadows and even went to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park for a day hike. There, I was lucky enough to run into two rangers who were measuring water flow of the Tuolumne River. We had an interesting chat about meadow conservation. It was a “happy accidental research incident” for me.

What challenges you as a writer? 

My last four books have been board books. I love the distilled writing that’s needed for younger audiences, but I’ll admit that it can be a challenge! Taking a more advanced concept, such as meadow conservation in Hello, Meadow!, took some thought (and lots of playing with text), to find the right wording that babies and toddlers would comprehend. We (my incredible editor, Nicole Geiger, and the Yosemite Conservancy team) wanted the text to be simple but clear enough so little ones could understand the message of protecting meadows. So, for example, while I wanted to say, “Meadows are fragile ecosystems, which are wildlife habitats, crucial water filters, places of peace and beauty, and help with climate change by capturing carbon from the atmosphere” what I did write was, “Meadows are such busy places. Grasses, creatures, open spaces. But meadows can get hurt, you see. Let’s do our part to let them be.”

Nadja Sarell’s illustrations beautifully contribute to the book’s overall message, and expands upon the words, for which I am grateful. For example, with the text I just mentioned, she illustrated people doing things that can harm meadows, showing that they’re busy yet fragile places. The artwork is also scientifically accurate, with a variety of humans and wildlife, such as a black bear, hunting coyote, red-shouldered hawk, red-winged blackbird, lupines, Jeffrey shooting stars, meadow paintbrush, and much more. The illustrations really do carry a lot of the story and draw in our readers’ attention!

List 5 favourite picture books. Explain what you like about them:

Yeeks, only five? ;). Let me start with a newer title, To Find Treasure in the Mountains by Francine Rockey. It’s a beautifully written invitation for children to get out and explore nature. It’s one of those books that upon reading, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t I write a book like this?” 

A classic story I treasured reading to my son when he was little was The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood. The simplicity of the text and soft yet colorful, inviting illustrations made this a joy to read.

As a Montessori teacher, I loved another Don and Audrey Wood title, Heckedy Peg. I really got into character when I’d read this to my students, which they loved and was a lot of fun. And, the illustrations are amazing. 

I also love titles that evoke emotions and help children learn how to experience challenging feelings. One title that does this so well is the Caldecott Honor Book, The Rough Patch by Brian Lies. When Evan mourns the loss of his dog and “loses it” by destroying his garden, well…it took my breath away and sent chills down my spine. Any book that evokes that kind of physical response from me becomes a favorite. 

And last, another book that evokes emotions is Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley. It’s another story about loss, but what I thought was particularly brilliant was that we never knew why Papa is gone. To me, this leaves an invitation to the reader to interpret the situation and make it their own. E.g, Papa could have passed away, or been alive but gone for another reason. For children with a deceased parent, a parent working overseas, or even in prison, this story can speak to them. I really love picture books that leave just enough room for interpretation so the reader can relate to it in their own way.

Can you recommend any resources for developing your talents as a writer? 

Of course! I always recommend new writers join the SCBWI. It’s where I learned the basics of writing for children, and developed important relationships with fellow writers and once met a future editor. Another terrific resource, especially for developing skills, is the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. I’ve taught a variety of children’s writing courses for them, but most recently have focused on Writing Picture Books II, a deeper dive into picture book writing than their Writing Picture Book I course. They offer a variety of formats, including on-campus, online, and remote platforms. You can learn more at https://www.uclaextension.edu/writing-journalism. And for folks who like learning at their own, individualized pace, Ann Whitford Paul’s craft book, Writing Picture Books is a must-read.

Thank you, Terry! I hope this will be helpful for new writers learning the craft. There are many avenues to learn the art of writing picture books.

Just look at these gorgeous interior spreads. And Terry’s rhyme is spot on and easy to read!

And now for the giveaway! Enter to win a copy of this gorgeous book. Like and comment on the blog or on the Twitter post. For an extra entry, QT or RT on Twitter. Make sure you are following Terry! Links below.

You must be an adult and a resident of the USA to win – sorry Canadian people, I will do a giveaway that includes you – coming soon. Giveaway closes April 23 at midnight EST.

Here are Terry’s links –

FB: @TerryPierceAuthor

TWITTER: @terrycpierce

WEBSITE: https://www.terrypiercebooks.com

And now a little more about me, the face behind the blog!

I am a children’s author too… with two self-published books and my debut picture book in traditional publishing, IF A BUMBLEBEE LANDS ON YOUR TOE, coming in 2024 with Yeehoo Press!

If you’re curious about books by Cynthia Mackey (me), please subscribe to my newsletter.

I hope you’ll stop by again soon!