Summer Reading Challenge Week 3

Happy summer and welcome to my #PBHOT62 picture book challenge update!  I joined this Summer Reading Challenge  hosted by Rena Traxel.  By the end of the summer I will have read 62 picture books (maybe more) in a variety of interesting places.  Here’s my list of all the picture books and fun places I’ve been reading this week:

  1. Read someplace blue. (my blue chair). Blue Whale Blues by Peter Carnavas. (Book #15) Imagine a whale who wants to ride a bicycle only it turns out that bicycle is actually a shopping cart.  Cute.  How will he go for a ride?  What will he do when he finds out it isn’t really a bike?IMG_4942

2. Read someplace calm. (fountain). Where the Giant Sleeps by Mem Fox and Vladimir Radunsky.  (Book #16) You cannot go wrong with Mem Fox.IMG_4956

3. Read someplace high. (2nd story window) Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Marc Barnett and Jon Klassen.  ( Book #17) This book reminds me of my childhood and I love the story in pictures that happens alongside the text.  Brilliant.IMG_5052

4. Read someplace odd (my car) If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead.  (Book #18) This book was so poetic that I even took a photo of one of the pages of text because I loved the writing so much 🙂IMG_5026IMG_5027

5. Read someplace sunny. (my patio) How to Draw a Dragon by Douglas Florian  (Book #19)1442473991

6. Read someplace fancy (piano).  Lulu’s Piano Lesson by Arlene Alda (Book #20)IMG_4946

7. Read someplace inspired by Penny’s books (my kitchen…A Cooked Up Fairy Tale by Penny Parker Klostermann) Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson and Laura Ranking. (Book #21)


It has been tons of fun to do all this reading research and I’m looking forward to the next batch of seven books as well as the next week of places to read in Rena’s Challenge. There are so many wonderful picture books out there!  What are you reading this week? Picture books? Romance? Thriller?  Feel free to share. 


Katie Shaeffer would just love this tray of miscellaneous items!  

It always amazes me how a simple collection of items can be so inspiring for a child.  My group of preschoolers can do amazing things with the most random objects.img_3206

“Katie assembled and constructed; she glued and she taped; she stacked and she hammered, until finally her creation was done.” -from Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker

Here are some real examples of creations made by young children with miscellaneous items:


I believe young children are capable and can do amazing things if given the opportunity! That belief together with the inspiring creations I see children make daily helped inspire the story Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker!

Here’s a synopsis of the story:

Join Katie and her friend Baxter in this fun story as they use a passion for collecting and building to find a way to realize Katie‛s pancake dream! This upbeat energetic tale with great potential for reading aloud will appeal to adults and young children alike. The book includes a predictable rhyme that will have children chiming in as the story unfolds. Children will celebrate with Katie and Baxter as their pancake dream becomes reality! Recipe included. Author: Cynthia Mackey Illustrator: Paula Nasmith

Contact me if you are interested in receiving an advance review copy of the story! I hope to have these available soon.

A Book Designed to Inspire

One of the many thoughts in my mind as I was writing Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker involved inspiration.  I love the way that picture books can inspire children’s play and I wanted to create a picture book that would inspire children to construct their own unique creations out of free reusable items that are readily available at home.

“Katie Shaeffer loved building things, she loved collecting things and most of all she loved pancakes.”img_2822

The story was written in part for myself as a preschool teacher, as I wanted a great picture book that could be a jumping off point for activities like this one.  I like to provide children with assorted sizes of cardboard boxes.  They use tape and scissors to construct a creation of their own choosing.

The learning opportunities here are so plentiful.  Children learn to use scissors and tape effectively.  This takes huge amounts of skill and focus for three and four year olds but they can do it.  Children develop confidence in their abilities as their fine motor skills improve.  Because the project is of a child’s own choosing, the child is highly motivated to complete the task and will spend more time working towards their goal.

I love this because it only requires scissors, tape and boxes.  Sometimes children like to paint their creations as well.  Some children have constructed creations and then taken them home to play with over and over again.  Just imagine how it would feel to be three or four years old and create your own toy!

I hope that Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker will inspire you and your children to construct unique creations from a panoply of recycled items just as Katie did in the story.

Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker will be available soon.  Check back here at my author website for updates!

Support Indie Authors

Supporting independent authors is something anyone who reads can do.  It costs nothing except a little of your time.  Independent authors do not have a large publishing company with a team of people devoted to marketing just one book.  They are do-it-yourself-ers.  For that reason, they just don’t have the money or the resources to get a book out there on the same scale as a publishing company.  Still, many indie authors have unique talent that ought to be appreciated.

So how can you help?  You can leave a trail for people to discover their books…

Nature trail

Write a review.  If you give the book 4 stars, or better yet 5 stars, then that is a huge boost for an indie author.  And it costs absolutely nothing except a little of your time.  Reviews will make or break a book.  So think carefully about the rating before you leave something less than 4 stars.  Is it just your opinion?  Is it possible that someone else with different tastes may like the book?  Maybe if you’re going to leave a book review for an indie author with less than 4 stars the best thing is to have second thoughts and realize you have something more important to do like sort out your sock drawer.

So… want to support an indie author?

Write a five star review!  Your time spent will be hugely appreciated.  Chances are you will get a personal thank you as well.  

Getting Inspiration

For me, inspiration comes from a variety of sources. Katie Shaeffer, Pancake Maker was inspired in part by the book Loose Parts , Inspiring Play in Young Children written by Lisa Daly and Miriam Beloglovsky.

The book is full of beautiful photographs of loose parts arranged to inspire play in young children.  Here are a few examples that I photographed from the book.  There are many many more in the book itself so I would highly recommend purchasing the book for your own inspiration as a parent or as an educator.  Or at least borrow it from the library!  It really highlights the endless possibilities that loose parts can present.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And during the time I have been using loose parts theory in the preschool classroom I have witnessed many projects that children have undertaken.  These projects have also served as inspiration for the story.  I hope that Katie and Baxter from my story Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker will inspire young children to take on more creative projects using items they and their parents or teachers have collected!

Have you or your child created something using loose parts?  Maybe you are an educator who has been using loose parts theory in the classroom like me.  Send a photo of your project to and I would be happy to feature it here on my author blog.

In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.”  -Architect, Simon Nicholson

This post was written in response to the Daily Post Discover Challenge   Mixing Media.

Fifty Tips for New Picture Book Authors Who Wish to Self-Publish

Okay, I’ll admit I’m no expert but I do like to share so here’s my list of 50 tips for brand new writers and self-publishers of the kid-lit variety.

  1. Show don’t tell  You will hear this a lot.  In a nutshell, this means your words need to paint a picture by including details, coversation and action.
  2. Use dialogue to help identify your character When you write dialogue remember who is speaking and choose words that help define the character who is speaking
  3. It is not completely taboo to use the word “said” Don’t just flip through the thesaurus and swap other words in for variety.  Choose words that add to the action or the character’s emotion.
  4. Write your story and then leave it alone for awhile When you go back to it you’ll have fresh eyes
  5. Watch out for things that don’t make sense
  6. Learn about child development Knowing and understanding your audience is hugely helpful.
  7. Make sure the images compliment the words Children will notice if there’s a disconnect
  8. The children in the story need to solve the problem, not the adults
  9. Each page needs to connect to the next one so that the story will flow
  10. Making a book ‘dummy’ can be helpful to see where the page turns will be
  11. Generally children’s books have a sense of being home, leaving home and then coming back home 
  12. Find a group to share your writing with You need other people to read your writing.  They will see things you cannot.  A fresh perspective is so valuable.
  13. Write and revise over and over The more you work with a story the more it grows and changes to become something better than it was at the beginning
  14. Take notes When you get little ideas, jot them down and save them for future stories.  You never know what you might be able to use.
  15. Join the SCBWI There is a huge resource of expertise available to you.
  16. Writing for magazines is a great way to start
  17. If you’re writing for children, then prepare to do school visits Most children’s authors sell their books through school visits in person or via Skype.
  18. Start a blog In order to sell books you need a platform and that platform grows from blogging.  Blogging helps you practice your craft as well.
  19. Grow your blog with giveaways When you host a giveaway it brings more traffic to your site allowing more people to become aware of you and your books.
  20. Network Through your blog you can network with other writers.  You can share ideas and learn from each other plus help grow each other’s blogs.
  21. Guest Posts Write guest posts for other blogs and invite others to post on yours.
  22. Do Some Research Learn all you can about self-publishing and how it works.
  23. A Good Editor is Extremely Valuable A good editor can guide you so that your unpolished work becomes polished and professional.
  24. Be Prepared to Spend Some Money to Get the Book Published Though it is possible to publish a book without spending a lot of money, you are better off to pay for the services that will make your book stand out.
  25. Non-Fiction Books for Children are in Greater Demand If you have the ability to write non-fiction books for children, it may be easier to sellcropped-101.jpg
  26.  Adding a non-fiction section at the back of a fiction book can be a way to make your book more marketable
  27. Books that deal with topics related to the curriculum are sought after
  28. Research the books that are already out there Write the book that you wish you could find but no one seems to have written yet.
  29. Diverse children’s books are needed
  30. An author website is essential
  31. Social Media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are important ways to let people know about your book
  32. Book reviews are super important You need book reviews of 4-5 stars if you want people to buy your book
  33. Do not pay for reviews
  34. Doing a blog tour can help get the message out about your book
  35. SCBWI has book parties that feature newly released books 
  36. Your book needs a marketing plan
  37. Spend a lot of time thinking about the title of your book, choose a great one!
  38. People do make judgments about a book based on the cover so make sure the cover is excellent
  39. You can use Goodreads to connect with readers and do giveaways
  40. Giving away your book for free might feel difficult but it is all part of marketing
  41. Book design is important If you know how to use Indesign then you may be able to do this yourself but hiring a book designer is worthwhile.
  42. Having your book available in as many ways as possible allows more people to buy the book so consider making it available as widely as possible
  43. Ebooks are different from the physical book and require formatting You can pay someone to do a conversion for you.
  44. Children’s picture books are more expensive to produce because of the colour images.  
  45. Images for a children’s book should be minimum 300 dpi This will avoid having the images come out looking pixilated.
  46. Once your artwork is completed, you can have it scanned and converted to 300 dpi files There is a significant cost for this as well so be prepared.
  47. Read a lot!!! Read all kinds of books but especially the books in your genre.
  48. Reading and commenting on other blogs is important too.
  49. Look at other author’s websites to see how they are structured and how they do their school visits.
  50. The list seems long, but keep this quote in mind… “How do you eat an elephant? A little at a time.” – Creighton Abrams