Welcome to Inkygirl: Reading, Writing and Illustrating Children's Books (archive list here) which includes my Creating Picture Books series, Advice For Young Writers and IllustratorsWriter's and Illustrator's Guide To Twitter, interviews, my poetry for young readers, #BookADay archives, writing/publishing industry surveys, and 250, 500, 1000 Words/Day Writing Challenge. Also see my Inkygirl archives,  and comics for writers (including Keiko and Will Write For Chocolate). Also check out my Print-Ready Archives for Teachers, Librarians, Booksellers and Young Readers.

I tweet about the craft and business of writing and illustrating at @inkyelbows. If you're interested in my art or other projects, please do visit DebbieOhi.com. Thanks for visiting! -- Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Entries in bookaday (62)


Holiday Kidlit: DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW by Helaine Becker & Werner Zimmerman (Scholastic Canada)

Looking for some Canadian holiday kidlit cheer? Try DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW: A CANADIAN JINGLE BELLS, a new book written by my friend Helaine Becker, illustrated by Werner Zimmermann, companion to their #1 national bestseller, A PORCUPINE IN A PINE TREE. More info about DASHING on the Scholastic Canada site.

More about Helaine: http://www.helainebecker.com/

More about Werner: http://wernerzimmermann.ca/


Also see my other #BookADay posts.


Book I read: THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B by Teresa Toten

Just finished Teresa Toten's THE UNLIKELY HERO OF ROOM 13B. Wow, loved this book so much; it was one of those stories that made me laugh and cry at the same time. Wonderful voice. I also learned a lot about OCD. Highly recommended! I was also lucky enough to hear Teresa's inspiring opening keynote at CANSCAIP's Packaging Your Imagination and chat with her a bit afterward. SUCH a nice person!

Info: More about TeresaMore about the book (including an excerpt).


#BookADay: A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

#BookADay: A HITCH AT THE FAIRMONT by Jim Averbeck, with very cool chapter heading comic illustrations by Nick Bertozzi. Fun and satisfying read with some great twists, and I loved the fact that young Jack is an artist.  

Advice for new illustrators and writers from Jim Averbeck from his interview on Kidlit411.com:
"Grow a thick skin. Get great teachers. Challenge yourself. Value yourself. Put all of your heart into each story, but don’t put all of your heart into only one story. Surround yourself with creative people. And if you can manage to get hold of a trust fund, do so." :-)

Synopsis: "An intrepid boy teams up with Alfred Hitchcock himself in this rollicking mystery rife with action, adventure, intrigue, and all the flavor of film noir.

After the mysterious death of his mother, eleven-year-old Jack Fair is whisked away to San Francisco's swanky Fairmont Hotel by his wicked Aunt Edith. There, he seems doomed to a life of fetching chocolates for his aunt and her pet chinchilla. Until one night, when Aunt Edith disappears, and the only clue is a ransom note written... in chocolate?

Suddenly, Jack finds himself all alone on a quest to discover who kidnapped Aunt Edith and what happened to his mother. Alone, that is, until he meets an unlikely accomplice: Alfred Hitchcock himself! The two embark on a madcap journey full of hidden doorways, secret societies, cryptic clues, sinister villains, and cinematic flair."

More about the author: http://www.jimaverbeckbooks.com/

More about the illustrator: http://nickbertozzi.com/

More about the book on the S&S site: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Hitch-at-the-Fairmont/Jim-Averbeck/9781442494473




#BookADay: WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

Just finished WE WERE LIARS by Emily Lockhart. Totally lives up to the hype, I have to say. 

It's a novel I definitely want to reread (if you've read the novel yourself, you know why).

In hunting down interviews with the author, I was intrigued by the fact that Emily rewrote the novel multiple times as well as reorganizing "over and over." This hard work clearly paid off.

What I loved most: the voice. I only had to read a sample excerpt to be hooked, and immediately bought the book for my Kindle.

You can find out more about E. Lockhart and her work at EmilyLockhart.com. If you're on Twitter, you should follow @elockhart -- she sometimes posts about her writing process, too.

More about We Were Liars on the Penguin Random House site.


Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


Starting to blog about children's books I read, #BookADay, and why I DON'T do formal book reviews (so please don't ask)

As some of you already know, I've been participating in Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge and having great fun with it; you can see my posts so far here and all my #BookADay collages on Flickr.

I've decided to keep posting about the children's and YA books I read (and re-read) this way, even if I'm unable to do it every day. But now I'm torn; I'm not really adhering to the rules of the official #BookADay challenge...although I AM reading/rereading an average of a picture book a day, I don't always post about it. I mentioned on FB that I'm pulling back a wee bit from online distractions so I can get more writing done.

I enjoy the process of putting together these mini book-collages, however, especially for favourites I'm re-reading, because it gives me an excuse to delve more into the background of the book as well as finding out more about the author and illustrator. I also love hearing from people who say my post has prompted them to check out the books, or are reminded of a book they need to reread or share with their students.

Because I'm not strictly following the #BookADay rules, however, I'm going to change the footer of these images from now on...else I'll feel like a #BookADay cheater!

Please note that these are not meant to be formal book reviews. I AM NOT A BOOK REVIEWER. I just like reading books written for young people, and sometimes I am going to blog about them. I want to make this clear because I strongly prefer NOT being contacted about reviewing books. Reading a book for review or critique vastly changes the reading experience for me, and I am already finding it a challenge to carve out time for pleasure reading.

I avoid posting negative comments about books I read. My posts do not criticize the books and are not meant to be objective reviews. If I truly dislike a book, I just won't post about it*. Chances are good I just didn't finish it. I would much rather spend that time and energy talking about books I do like. There is enough snark and negativity in reader reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. I have also seen how a single, hate-filled anonymous review can affect a hardworking author. Yes, we need to develop thick skins as authors, but no one deserves some of the personal attacks I've seen on those sites.

Note that I consider the above reviews very different from thoughtful and well-balanced critical reviews by those who have no hidden agenda.

I tend to agree with Hallie Sawyer, who makes a distinction between book reviews and book recommendations. In addition to highlighting some of the books I've been reading and re-reading, one of my goals has also been to let others know (especially teachers and librarians) about books they may not be aware of, or have not yet had time to read themselves.

Why am I going on and on about NOT being a book reviewer? Because in the past, when I have done informal so-called book reviews, I've been inundated with publicists and authors who want me to review books. They want to send me books. If I don't respond right away, they follow up with multiple emails.

I need to clarify a few points:

I am not short on books to read.

I am short on time to read.

I would much rather pay money to buy a book I'm 90% sure I'll enjoy than get a free book that only vaguely interests me at the outset.

Okay, enough on that topic.  

Thanks again to Donalyn Miller, whose Book-A-Day Challenge inspired me to start doing these book mini-collages, and who has been inspiring countless others to do more summer reading!


*Note: If I haven't posted about your book and you know I own it, please DON'T assume I disliked it. I may not have read it or finished reading it, may have finished and enjoyed it but not yet had time to post about it, or it may simply be one of the many books I've read and enjoyed in the past but never posted about. 




#BookADay: MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS by Eliza Wheeler @wheelerstudio, advice for picture book writers/illustrators

I've fallen a bit behind in my #BookADay posts because of my work schedule, but plan to catch up soon. Perfect for a relaxing Canada Day #BookADay: MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS by my friend Eliza Wheeler (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2013). Eliza and I met when we were both picked for the 2010 SCBWI Illustration Mentorship Program, and we've been friends ever since. I'm looking forward to rooming with Eliza next month at the SCBWI-LA convention!

Miss Maple's Seeds has absolutely gorgeous artwork, and such a comforting and inspiring story. My favourite quote: "...Even the grandest of trees once had to grow up from the smallest of seeds."


"Fans of Miss Rumphius will adore this gorgeous picture book which introduces the kind, nature-loving Miss Maple, who celebrates the miracle in each seed. Miss Maple gathers lost seeds that haven’t yet found a place to sprout. She takes them on field trips to explore places to grow. In her cozy maple tree house, she nurtures them; keeping them safe and warm until it’s time for them to find roots of their own, and grow into the magnificent plants they’re destined to become. Eliza Wheeler’s luminous paintings feature gorgeous landscapes, lush foliage and charming details. Her tender story celebrates the potential found in each seed—since even the grandest tree and most brilliant flower had to grow from the smallest of seeds. Celebrate every season with Miss Maple, from Earth Day to graduations to harvest festivals. "

I interviewed Eliza last year on Inkygirl.com about MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS and her illustrations for Holly Black's DOLL BONES; do check it out for the story of how Eliza and I met, her work process, and advice for aspiring picture book writers and illustrators.

Some of Eliza's excellent advice:

1) Be patient while you build up your body of work. Just focus on your craft, and leave the business side of storytelling for later; for when your work is REALLY good.

2) Create the kind of work that your kid self would have loved. Be your own audience, and always ask yourself "If someone else made this, would I read it? Would I put it up on my wall?". It seems obvious, but more often than not when I ask myself this question, I'm surprised to think "no".

3) Read, read, read. Whenever I'm stuck with my storytelling I read. I get new ideas or answers to existing stories when I read. And don't just read in your genre. A friend lent me Aimee Bender's adult novel The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, and I was distracted through the entire thing because every single time I sat down to read that book, a particular story I was working on would come to me in waves. I don't know why that was, but certain books will do that, and I've learned that it's a really great thing.


Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson @morgan_m

Just finished reading SINCE YOU'VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2014). Loved this book, especially the main character, Emily. How I wish this book had been published years ago! I was very much like Emily when I was a teen: timid and insecure on my own, plus I spent a chunk of time in the shadow of a much more outgoing friend. Reading this book might have helped give me the courage to step out of my friend's shadow and find my own adventures.

Something else I loved: the twist on the stereotypical timid girl/outgoing or mean girl scenario. I won't go into details for fear of giving away spoilers. Read this book!


The Pre-Sloane Emily didn't go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn't do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just... disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try... unless they could lead back to her best friend.

Apple Picking at Night? Ok, easy enough.

Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a Stranger? Wait... what?

Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?

Go Skinny Dipping? Um...


Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: HOORAY FOR HAT! by Brian Won, plus advice for children's book illustrators

HOORAY FOR HAT is Brian Won's debut picture book, and was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt earlier this year.


"Elephant wakes up grumpy—until ding, dong! What’s in the surprise box at the front door? A hat! HOORAY FOR HAT! Elephant marches off to show Zebra, but Zebra is having a grumpy day, too—until Elephant shares his new hat and cheers up his friend. Off they march to show Turtle! The parade continues as every animal brightens the day of a grumpy friend. An irresistible celebration of friendship, sharing, and fabulous hats."

I wrote about Brian and HOORAY FOR HAT earlier this month

Three things children's book writer/illustrators can learn from Brian:

1. Understand the emotions behind the characters you are illustrating.

2. Don't compare yourself to others. Instead, compare where you are now to where you came from.

3. Join the SCBWI and attend conferences, enter the Portfolio Showcase. You never know what might happen!


Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: ONE WORD PEARL by Nicole Groeneweg and Hazel Mitchell, plus advice for aspiring children's book illustrators

Today's #BookADay: ONE WORD PEARL written by Nicole Groeneweg and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell (Charlesbridge, 2013).


Pearl loves words. All kinds of words. Words make up songs, stories, poems . . . and what does a lover of words do? She collects them, of course! But one day, most of Pearl’s words are blown away, leaving her only a few which she keeps safely in her treasure chest.

After that day, she uses each word carefully—one at a time, until she has no words left. When her teacher asks her questions at school, she doesn’t answer. When her friend wants to know what she has for lunch, she can’t respond. What will Pearl do without her precious words? Will she ever find them?

One Word Pearl explores the power of words to transform, inspire, and cultivate imagination.

I was delighted to interview the illustrator of ONE WORD PEARL last year. Do check out Hazel Mitchell's interview for a great peek into her process (lots of photos) and advice for aspiring children's book illustrators.


Attend all the conferences/workshops you can afford (and some you can't) and absorb information.

Learn the craft. Children's book illustration is an art-unto-itself. Study the masters, attend workshops where great illustrators are teaching. Go back to college if you need to.

Draw. Draw. Draw. There is no substitute for drawing.

Read. Read. Read. Immerse yourself in discovering new and old picture books, illustrated middle grade, cover work, graphic novels.

Find your voice ... how do you do that? By drawing and learning and imitating and seeking critique and then finally becoming unconscious of your style. Then you have found your illustration voice.

Work on your portfolio. A portfolio for children's illustration! Creating a website portfolio is very important! Tell people you exist!

Mail out, submit, direct people to look at your work.

Be open. become proficient in social networking. It's free and it can benefit you in unbelievable ways. But always give back.

Seek out other illustrators and create a band of brothers.


Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: SAY HELLO TO ZORRO! by Carter Goodrich, plus a peek into his illustration process

Catching up on my #BookADay: SAY HELLO TO ZORRO! by Carter Goodrich (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2011). The two dog characters in this story are soooooo adorable. And I was very excited to discover that MISTER BUD WEARS THE CONE just came out!

According to a Readeo.com interview, Zorro was apparently loosely based on his aunt's pug. The pug's name was Ozzie but Carter has dyslexia, so called him Zorro. Carter used watercolor for the illustrations, which was new for him.

"The best part of an image is the part I couldn’t control, the happy accident. When something strange would happen in a piece, it would always be better than something I might purposefully do. Like when Zorro is shifting position on the couch. I did a lot of takes on that. I was still working with pencil and trying to shape it and tone it. I thought, “I have to paint the couch really quickly, and it’s either going to hit or not.” There are little things where the paint did everything on its own,. But then I had to repeat it. And that was alright, too. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be."

Read more about Carter's process in Jenny Brown's interview with him on Readeo.

And check out the cover of the just-released Mister Bud Wears The Cone:

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: BOY + BOT by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino (and advice for aspiring picture book authors and illustrators)

Just reread BOY + BOT, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf/Random House, 2012). Wonderfully entertaining story of friendship. 

On Goodreads - On Indiebound

Synopsis: "One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun. But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he's sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don't help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep. Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him? Using the perfect blend of sweetness and humor, this story of an adorable duo will win the hearts of the very youngest readers."

I read each of these #BookADay picture books out loud to myself in my home office, as I've mentioned before. I STRONGLY STRONGLY RECOMMEND that aspiring children's picture authors and illustrators do this, both for other people's picture books as well as your own works-in-progress.

In this readaloud, it was SO fun to do the robot's voice. I also loved the text and visual parallels in how the boy and robot tried to fix each other.

Kidlit types on Twitter, by the way, need to follow Ame Dyckman at @AmeDyckman. She is bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic, and a joy to read. I interviewed Ame about BOY + BOT on Inkygirl a while back and was delighted to meet her in person at SCBWI-LA some time later.

Ame's newest book is TEA PARTY RULES, illustrated by K.G. Campbell and published by Viking.

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: THE STAMP COLLECTOR by Jennifer Lanthier and François Thisdale, advice for children's book writers & illustrators


Today's #BookADay: THE STAMP COLLECTOR, written by Jennifer Lanthier and illustrated by François Thisdale (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2012). Beautiful story, stunning artwork. A note by Jennifer at the end explains how the story was inspired by two writers. "Jian Weiping is a journalist who spent six years in a Chinese prison for exposing government corruption. Nurmuhemmet Yasin is a writer serving ten years in a Chinese prison for writing a short story called 'The Wild Pigeon.'" A portion of the proceeds from this book supports PEN Canada.

You can read a profile of Jennifer on the SCBWI blog about her 2013 Crystal Kite win, including advice for other children's book writers and illustrators. An excerpt:

"...Creating something is an extraordinary privilege and if exercising that privilege feels too hard sometimes, try to keep going. What did Samuel Beckett say? “No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner, movie trailer, advice for aspiring writers

Just finished listening to the audiobook version of THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner (Delacorte, 2010). The book is first in a series for ages 12 and up and soon to be a movie. Here's the book trailer:

James Dashner offered advice for writers on Writer's Digest website, so be sure to check 7 Things I've Learned So Far, by James Dashner. Two of these tips: 1. Networking is key, and 2. Immerse your reader in the story with depth. On his blog, he offers a great Q&A for aspiring writers

One of piece of useful advice: "Write a novel from beginning to end. I mean it. I don't care if it's the worst book in history, write a beginning, a middle, and an ending, and everything in between. You won't believe the magical power that will come over you once you've accomplished this task." Read the rest on his blog.

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: WE PLANTED A TREE by Diane Muldrow and Bob Staake, advice for aspiring children's book writers and illustrators

Today's #BookADay: WE PLANTED A TREE, written by Diane Muldrow and illustrated by Bob Staake, published by Golden Books/Random House. In addition to being an author, Diane is also editorial director at Golden Books/Random House. 

I bought WE PLANTED A TREE at the 2010 SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, which was also the first conference at which I took a picture book writing workshop (taught by Diane Muldrow). It was an EXCELLENT course, and I learned a great deal. I also bought WE PLANTED A TREE and had it signed by the author:

This was also the conference where I won some awards at the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase and was offered a book illustration project by Simon & Schuster Children's and when I told Diane, she congratulated me. :-) My friend Kimberly Gee interviewed Diane Muldrow for KidLitArtists.com, and she offered useful advice for aspiring children's book writers.


"I think the most common mistake is that many aspiring writers don’t write material that is very marketable. We editors are looking for manuscripts that have an interesting hook—something that we can show to our sales force and marketing people, and say, “This book is perfect for Father’s Day,” or “This book is a fresh take on the cowboy/first day of school/new friend/bedtime/etc./ theme.”

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.



#BookADay: CATS' NIGHT OUT by Caroline Stutson and Jon Klassen

Today's #BookADay: CATS' NIGHT OUT, written by Caroline Stutson and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster). Who can resist dancing cats? Love the musical theme in this beautifully illustrated counting book. I swear I can almost hear the music in the background as I read this book.  Jon Klassen was awarded a Governor General's Award for Children's Literature: Illustration in 2010.

From Alexandra Penfold on Twitter (first tweet was a response to my "who can resist dancing cats?"):


Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: BREATHE by Scott Magoon

I loved BREATHE by Scott Magoon (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster) soooo much. I found the combination of sparse and lyrical text with gorgeous, airy art irresistible and deeply moving. 

I confess it also made me weepy. Have no idea if it'll affect others the same way, but so much of this book can be appreciated on a grown-up level as well as by young readers: a reminder to take time to breathe and enjoy the moment, to be brave and explore, to listen and observe the beauty in the world around you, to not be afraid of obstacles but find other ways up, to dream big, to love and be loved.

And of course BREATHE can absolutely be appreciated simply as a wonderful bedtime readaloud, without any of the above interpretations. I so love books like this.

Seven Impossible Things has a great post about Scott's process for creating Breathe, and you should also visit Scott Magoon's page about Breathe.

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.



#BookADay: GIFT DAYS, written by Kari-Lynn Winters & illustrated by Stephen Taylor

Today's #BookADay: GIFT DAYS by Kari-Lynn Winters (author) and Stephen Taylor (illustrator), published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. The launch of this book raised money for the charity Because I Am A Girl and has already raised enough money to send ten girls to school in Uganda for a full year.

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay: NEVER LET YOU GO by Patricia Storms (and advice for aspiring children's book writers & illustrators)

Today's #BookADay: NEVER LET YOU GO by Patricia Storms (Scholastic Canada).

You can read my interview with Patricia Storms about her process and personal growth during the creation of her book. Her advice to aspiring children's book writers/illustrators: "Try not to be too obsessed with what is selling in 'the market.'" and "It's really about discovering who you are, and what stories you want to tell."

Find out more about Donalyn Miller's Summer Book-A-Day Challenge on the Nerdy Book Club site, and you can read archives of my #BookADay posts.


#BookADay - I MUST HAVE BOBO, by Eileen and Marc Rosenthal


#BookADay - WON TON: A Cat Tale Told In Haiku, by Lee Wardlaw and Eugene Yelchin