13 Sep

A Horn Book review, a custom-made pie, and other good stuff for 88 Instruments


There’s been an accumulation of splendiffery in the four weeks since 88 Instruments was published, and I can’t stand to keep it to myself.

For starters, there’s this 88 Instruments Educators’ Guide and Activities download from Random House.

On her new blog A Book and A Pie, Lindsay Leslie has paired her review of 88 Instruments with her selection of the ideal pie to go with the book. This is not a theoretical pie, but an actual pie. Or rather, a pie that was actual prior to being presumably happily devoured. Thanks, Lindsay!

88 Instruments has also received a review (though no pie) from The Horn Book:

The galloping rhymed text, featuring toe-tapping dictionary rejects (‘thrummiest’), is a song unto itself. … The loose-handed, even jittery illustrations foreground [the protagonist’s] attempts to play many of the instruments; meanwhile, his parents are a mute chorus of comical anxiety.

And from Franki Sibberson at A Year of Reading:

This book is perfect for talking about growth mindset in a fun way–the last few pages of the book that include the decision of instrument and the plan for learning are simple yet powerful for conversations around learning and growth mindset.

Some of my favorite tweets about the book have included:

I also appreciated the mentions from Beth Shaum (A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust), Alicia Salazar (There’s a Story in All of Us), Catherine Coyne (Youth Services Book Review), Michele Knott (Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook), Jana Eschner (Jana The Teacher), and Mrs. ReaderPants.

Finally, many thanks to my hometown indie, BookPeople, for already featuring 88 Instruments as a storytime readaloud. I wish I’d been there — it takes a while to learn how to present in public a book you wrote in private, and I could probably pick up some pointers!

88 Instruments

31 Aug

August 2016 Bartography Express: The smashiest, the crashiest — and the animalsiest

To get Bartography Express in your inbox each month — and to have a shot at the September giveaway of This Is Our Baby, Born Today, written by Varsha Bajaj and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler — you can sign up on my home page.

20160827 Bartography Express

15 Nov

Four new books from me in 2016

Now that the cover of my next book with Don Tate has been revealed, I can show it off here, too. But why stop with just that one?

Through a combination of flukes, good fortune, and starting my work at 5 a.m. far more often than not, I’ve got four new picture books coming out in 2016. They are:

That's Not Bunny!

That’s Not Bunny! (illustrated by Colin Jack; Disney-Hyperion; February 2016)

Mighty Truck

Mighty Truck (illustrated by Troy Cummings; HarperCollins; April 2016)


Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (illustrated by Don Tate; Charlesbridge; May 2016)

88 Instruments

88 Instruments (illustrated by Louis Thomas; Knopf; August 2016)

I’ve been lucky throughout my career to get paired with terrific illustrators, and I’m delighted that you’ll get to see so much evidence of that throughout 2016.

Now, back to work on 2017…

18 Jan

And then sometimes books happen very (relatively) quickly

So, I was talking about how long these books can take, right? Of course, then, this past Thursday’s edition of PW Children’s Bookshelf contained this announcement:

88 Instruments announcement

The way that 88 Instruments has come together is far different from how my John Roy Lynch or Nutcracker books developed.

In March of last year, editor Julia Maguire let it be known that she’d be interested in a picture book about a child picking which instrument to learn. I had not yet written any such picture book, and it wasn’t until late May that I started coming up with an idea for how to tell that story.

For the next month or so I jotted down notes (no musical pun intended, but if you saw one anyway, I’ll gladly take credit) by longhand. In early July, I had a first draft. In mid-August, I swapped a revised draft with a critique partner and got some helpful feedback. A couple of weeks after that, I did a revision at my agent’s request. Three or four weeks later — late September — I did another revision, this one based on notes I got from Julia herself.

(Notice how I’m using words such as “month” and “weeks” and not “years,” “decade,” “lifetime.” Anyway…)

Julia liked that revision, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers offered to buy the book, I revised some more, and by early November the text was done. (Yes, my fellow picture book authors, I know. Famous last words.)

The holidays came and went. Nothing ever happens in publishing during the holidays — except in this case, I guess, because early January brought the news that Louis Thomas would be illustrating.

Louis Thomas' 2014 holiday card

Louis Thomas’ 2014 holiday card

Not only that, but Louis Thomas would be illustrating very soon, with publication expected in summer 2016, roughly two years after my first draft.

Now, whether the development of this book has been speedy depends on your perspective. At a school visit this past Friday, a second-grader asked me how many books I can write in a day, so I suspect that she wouldn’t be impressed.

But at least now, when kids ask me how long it takes to create a book, I can provide an updated answer: from as many as twelve and a half years (and counting!) to as few as two (fingers crossed!!!).