One year away day: Debut picture book Before I Lived Here, set in Colorado

One year away day: Debut picture book Before I Lived Here, set in Colorado

My debut picture book BEFORE I LIVED HERE is scheduled to be published on April 29, 2025.

While that’s one year away, I know the date could be iffy. Why? Because a lot can change. Think disruption of supply chains. Paper shortages. Pirates boarding cargo ships.

Dates can change. Anything can happen. I understand and that’s part of the publishing process.

I saw rough sketches from Illustrator Victo Ngai late last year. Her work is gorgeous.

I made this video to mark the “one year away day” with images from the neighborhood and the state that inspired this story that’s taken many years to get to publication.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about this book with you over the next year.

Before I Lived Here is a picture book about the history of where you live. It’s set in Colorado. I hope young readers will be able to imagine the story of their own neighborhoods before they lived there when they read this book.

Before I Lived Here is a picture book set in Colorado. It’s about the history of where you live.

In Before I Lived Here, a boy peels away each layer of the history of his house, which
may look a lot like yours. Follow along from the construction of the neighborhood back
to the planning of it; from the ranchers and log cabins that predated its modern
appearance back to the region’s indigenous people and their eviction from the land . . .
all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Before I Lived Here reminds us that history isn’t something that happens far away, to
other people—it’s in our own backyards.

This is NOT a Pumpkin

This is NOT a Pumpkin

Here’s my selection for Perfect Picture Book Friday:

This is NOT a Pumpkin
Written and Illustrated by Bob Staake (If you get a chance, visit his website and on the left hand sidebar click on the “quick bob” link. It’s a slideshow “about me,” and I enjoyed his description of moving into digital work and his normal style.)
Little Simon, 2007
Suitable for ages: 4-8
Theme/Topic: Similarities, Differences

Opening Spread:
This is NOT a pumpkin.

Brief Synopsis: From back cover: It may be round like a pumpkin and even orange like a pumpkin, but this is NOT a pumpkin! If it’s not a pumpkin, then what is it? Preschoolers and toddlers will love knowing the answers and enjoy the fun, “unexpected” ending!

Resources: Play a game with objects and talk about how they are or are not the same thing. Is it a sock or a sock monkey? Read a copy of Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld (that’s an optical illusion book), as a companion to this one. Draw a pumpkin and create your own Jack-o’-lanterns. Here’s a craft to make a 3-D one that doesn’t look like a pumpkin.

Why I Like This Book: I love the simplicity of the text and the art. It’s a fun book for little ones, because they will be saying, “BUT, it IS a pumpkin!” until the last page.

For more PPBF books, visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s Blog.

The Black Rabbit

The Black Rabbit

Here’s my Perfect Picture Book Friday choice:

The Black Rabbit
Written and Illustrated by Philippa Leathers
Candlewick Press, 2013
Suitable for: ages 3-7
Themes: shadows, fear

Opening Lines: RABBIT WOK UP ONE MORNING and stepped out of his burrow into the bright sunlight. It was a beautiful day.  (Yep, those caps are in the book.)
Synopsis: Rabbit discovers a black rabbit behind him. He tries to run away , but he can’t seem to get rid of the black rabbit. In the dark woods, he escapes the black rabbit and discovers another danger.

Link to Resources: Go outside and look at how your shadow follows you. Try to outrun it. See how your shadow disappears at different times of the day and in different places. You can also draw a chalk outline of your shadow, but you must stand still! Lesson plans on shadows.

Why I Like The Book: Philippa Leathers takes a fun approach to shadows. Enzo laughed at the images of the rabbit trying to outrun the black rabbit. There’s a funny chase scene. Simple and cute.

The Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI conference was wonderful. I met some online writer friends in person and met some industry professionals.

RMC-SCBWI events always provide an opportunity to spend time with Julie Rowan-Zoch, who had the three board books she illustrated for sale in the conference bookstore. Enzo gives her books a thumbs up!

Salina Yoon’s workshops were my favorite. I needed to hear the tips about story, process, and the business side of writing picture books. I love novelty and concept books, so it was wonderful to learn about her creation and marketing process for these books. Bonus: She read us Tap to Play!, which releases in October.
Avi was the keynote speaker. While he said he didn’t intend to be inspirational, he was. He shared many thoughts and a few jokes about writing. What’s the difference between a writer and a 14-inch pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four! Ouch, right?

A few of the presenters at this conference spoke about the limited market for rhyming and ABC books. A couple of people mentioned rhyming manuscripts cannot sell outside the U.S. due to translation issues, as well as market preferences in the U.K. They are also tricky to translate. ABC books were also mentioned as being limited to a U.S. market.

Post-conference I am working on revisions. I received helpful feedback in an editor’s critique and in a picture book intensive with the same editor and 14 (I think) other writers, who shared their thoughts after a quick reading of stories. Fresh eyes are always priceless.
Hope your writing is going well this week.

Find more PPBF at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

A Penguin Story

A Penguin Story

I SURVIVED! I took a two-week break to power through a special reading project (I can share that later in June); the silent auction at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference; a pitch appointment being canceled and transforming into an eight-minute-edit session with an editor (yipee); and polishing  two contest entries.
I return, as promised, with PENGUIN books!
Here’s my Perfect Picture Book Friday choice:

A Penguin Story
Written and Illustrated by Antoinette Portis
Harper Collins Publishers, 2009
Suitable for: 4-8
Themes/Topics: Discovery, Animals, Research, Colors/Environment, Community

Opening Lines: White, thinks Edna. Like yesterday.
Black. Like tomorrow.

Synopsis from Amazon: Edna the penguin only knows the three colors that surround her: white ice, black night, and blue sea. She is convinced there is something more out there. So she sets out on a quest—a quest for color. When she finally finds what she’s been looking for, it’s everything she hoped for and more. But that doesn’t mean she will ever stop looking.

Link to Resources: Here’s a link to Everything You Need with a really cute foam penguin craft. You can also be like Edna and look at the colors around you, your home, and your neighborhood.

Why I like this Book: It’s a simple story, but unfolds into something larger as Edna explores her world. I also like how the other penguins interact with Edna throughout the story from ignoring her to going with her.

Find more PPBF books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

Have a great weekend and happy writing, especially to those participating in the NaPiBoWriWee Challenge!