Caldecott, Newberry, and Curious George

Reading_rainbow_workshop_3Happy Spring Break from Erin Dealey and Curious George! Curious George was on hand to help me last weekend at the Reading Rainbow Young Writers’ and Illustrators’ workshop I taught for our local PBS station KVIE. (You get to meet a lot of celebrities in this business!)

Hi to all the kids from Del Paso, Rocklin, Sacramento, Antelope, and even Los Angeles, who came by to write and illustrate their books and submit them to the annual Young Writers and Illustrators contest. *It’s not to late if you haven’t submitted your book, by the way. The deadline is April 6th for KVIE PBS kids, grades K-3. To check for the contest in your area, go to There just may be an award in your future.

Speaking of awards (and I’m not, actually) what’s all this about Caldecott and Newberry? I celebrated my BIRTHDAY recently and when I checked other author birthdays, it turns out my birth date falls between a Caldecott (Randolph Caldecott: 3/22/1846) and a Newberry (Claire Newberry: 4/10/1903.) Ha! Gotcha! You really didn’t think I’d spelled the Newbery Award–as in John Newbery–incorrectly did you?

Of course I’m thrilled that my birth-month starts off with Dr. Seuss’ birthday (3/2/1904)–especially because schools love to kick off their reading programs with Author Visits around this time and I love school visits! : ) Rocklin_unified_2_2 

Hi to all the fabulous students and staff I’ve met since January at Ruhkala, Breen, Bannon Creek, O.W. Erlewine, Antelope Creek, Benjamin Bubb (Thanks for the cool Bubb sweatshirt!), Twin Oaks, Cobblestone, Stocklmeir, Woodland Montessori, Valley View, Rocklin Elementary, Rocklin Academy, Rock Creek (This is me and some of my Rock Creek pals. Thank you Mrs. Mathias.), Oakley, Charles Brown, and Chicago Park Elementary, as well as my Scholastic Book Fair friends at Birch Lane in Davis.

And Happy Birthday to some of my favorite writers: Sid Fleischman (March 16th), Lois Lowry (March 20th), Robert Frost (March 26th), and Beverly Cleary (April 12th.) Boy, am I in good company or what? 

In celebration of all things Spring, I’ll be reading LITTLE BO PEEP CAN’T GET TO SLEEP at Stanford University on Saturday April 7th at the Provost’s Egg Hunt from 10:30 – 11:00, and signing books afterwards. This event is for grad students and their little bunnies. I’m looking forward to seeing my SCBWI pals Kim Zarins who will read her Playful Bunny from 11:00 – 11:30 and Lynn Hazen who will share Buzz Bumble to the Rescue! from 11:30 – 12:00 noon.

Meanwhile, it’s time to PBIC and WRITE NOW.


Fat Tuesday and Empty Calories in Rhymed Picture Books

Before I get back to my very belated promise to give you the scoop on HarperCollins editor Kristin Daly, here’s a shameless link to my February 1st I LOVE TO READ segment with Courtney Dempsey on KMAX Channel 31 Good Day Sacramento:

I might not have linked it directly but see if you can check it out. The whole crew at KMAX is great fun and the 9:30am hour was perfect! (How do those EARLY Daybreak folks survive and STAY PERKY with a call time in the middle of the night?) Anyway, thank you Courtney, and Allison and Lisa. I’m looking forward to a return visit in time for Good Summer Reads for Kids!

O.K. back to Kristin Daly, who loves rhyming picture books. (Yay!) Yes, editors say they don’t want rhyming picture books but that’s to cut down on the piles of manuscripts they get from writers who are better off using prose. For great examples of good rhymes where every word counts, check out the ones she’s edited at HarperCollins for author Sudipta Bardan: Snoring Beauty and  Hampire and Pirate Princess. Of course I wouldn’t be upset if (second shameless plug) you looked at Goldie Locks Has Chicken Pox or Little Bo Peep Can’t Get To Sleep too.

Here’s my question to you: How do your stories show up on the page? I wrote my latest book, The Happy Mistake, The Invention of the Telephone  (Pearson Learning 2007), in prose and honestly it wouldn’t have felt right in rhyme. Neither would the manuscript I wrote recently about an art gallery adventure! If you have a manuscript that seems forced, try a draft in prose and see what happens.

Then again, some manuscripts just come out in rhyme. I don’t plan them or anything. They just show up in my brain that way. (Scary, I know…)

Kristin Daly says those of us who write in rhyme should beware of "Empty Calories," her wonderful term for the extra words stuck into lines or stanzas in an attempt make the rhythm work or force the rhyme. So I vote for giving up those Empty Calories on this Mardis Gras evening.

And don’t forget to PBIC.

The Best Books in the World

Valley_oak_12 I visited the kids at Valley Oak Elementary in Davis CA last week. Here’s a picture from one of the p.m. Kinders, Kerryne. You can view more of their letters and fabulous art work in my photo album: Letters From Kids.  I wish I could have displayed more of them but those in pencil didn’t scan well. Like the one from Melanie who wrote,

"Books are the Best! You have the BEST BOOKS in the world! I want to be an author too!"

Note to Melanie: Thanks! You’re awesome! Remember what I said in my assembly, ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE!

I’ve also included letters I got last spring from the 6th graders at North Davis Elementary. (Sorry it took me so long!) These kids are probably in middle school or Junior High now but I love the book they made me. One of the letters that was too light to reprint was from 6th grader Cindy Mo:

Dear Ms. Dealey,

Your performance was amazing! Every single joke of yours was hilarious and original. When I first walked into the multi-purpose room, I thought I was up for another boring day, but boy was I wrong! Your books are wonderful and I love the way you tie them into nursery rhymes’ characters, making it much more entertaining/ And I will never forget what you said about being an author. You are right; nobody can know what occupation they will be in the future.

Sincerely,                                                                                Cindy Mo

Note to Cindy: You go girl! I hope 7th grade is a good one for you!

Kerryne and the afternoon kindergarteners at Valley Oak made me a book too. Valley_oak_10 Here’s a page that Celine made for me,and a princess story by Simone. See why I love school visits? If I can inspire kids to read and write and believe in themselves, life is good. Valley_oak_11

And yeah, I know I said I’d get back to HarperCollins editor Kristin Daly’s talk at the fall SCBWI conference in Davis a few weeks ago (boy, I’ve been in Davis a lot lately!), but I’ll save that for the next blog. Meanwhile it’s time for me to PBIC and WRITE NOW! Maybe you should join me…

Query How To’s

Had a great time at the SCBWI NorCa conference yesterday in Davis, CA, featuring a wonderful talk by Harper Collins editor Kristin Daly. (That’s Daly–not Davis, although she’s got the same sparkle. Think BOOKS and the City…) More about Kristin’s talk in the next blog. I’m racing off this morning to Day #2 of my daughter’s soccer tourney. But first a round of applause to RA Tekla White, Assistant RA Genny Heikka. and their volunteers for organizing such a great day.

And second, here are the Query How To’s I talked about yesterday in my workshop on Picture Books. This is how my first book, GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX caught the attention of an editor without an agent…

The Query Letter:

This is your 30 second “pitch”/ audition /job interview. Make it professional—not casual. This is a business letter. Avoid typos, incorrect grammar or spelling. Use Times New Roman or Courier, 12 pt. — no fancy fonts

One page only! Include:

  1. Brief, specific, catchy, synopsis (1 paragraph), like book flap copy.
  2. If your book begins with a hook, use it!
  3. Will your voice set this query apart? Use it!
  4. Be sure to mention the “Ah Ha!” ending.
  5. Writer’s background : SCBWI
  6. If you haven’t published anything before, don’t say so!
  7. Audience: (Who is going to buy this book?)
  8. Why is it worth publishing?
  9. Why will young readers want to read this book?


  • DON’T send generic: “Dear Sir”—find a name. Then use Ms. or Mr. Last Name.
  • DO inform if this is a simultaneous (multiple) or exclusive submission w/deadline.
  • DO not e-mail unless specified. Snail mail is still preferred.
  • DON’T send certified, etc. Use 1st class reg. mail unless postage is more than Priority
  • DO Avoid: “This is bound to be a best seller.” “All my friends (students, relatives, etc.) read it and they love it!” “I see this as a T.V. movie of the week…”

If you’re still confused, Editor Cheryl Klein from Arthur A. Levine has the best blog ever on Query Letters. Check it out. Informative and entertaining! Who can beat that?

Meanwhile, you know the motto: PBIC and WRITE !

I’m Baaack!

This is why I put the word Occasional in my blog title. Has it really been 9 months since my lSimon_schusterast entry? Wow. Where have I been, you ask?  Well, besides NYC which was awesome, and yes I met all the folks at Atheneum/ Simon & Schuster (That’s me on Avenue of the Americas aka 6th Avenue in the photo.), I’ve been visiting schools all over the map!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the wonderful students and staff at Edna Batey Elementary (Elk Grove, CA), my San Diego/Chula Vista pals at Silverwing Elementary, Rice Elementary, and Hedenkamp Elementary. my PhoenixAZ friends at Villa Montessori and Madison Simis School, Taylor Elementary (Sacramento CA), The Learning Express (Roseville CA), Stonegate Elementary (San Jose CA), Folsom Public Library, Kennedy Elementary (Sacramento),Laurel Elementary’s Awesome Author Day (Oakley CA), all the Aggie families I met at UC DAvis Picnic Day, and the kids and teachers at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School (San Mateo CA), Village School (San Jose CA), North Davis Elementary, Bright Horizons/ Genentech’s 2nd Generation (South San Francisco), Heather Elementary (San Carlos). I’m hesitant to promise that I’ll post some of their drawings and writing soon, but I’m going to give it a try. Why? Because school visits are starting up again, and I have to catch up! (This reminds me of when I was teaching full time and piles of homework needed to be corrected before report cards…sound familiar, teachers?)

Maybe if I keep my blogs short and sweet, I’ll blog more often–in between the new picture book that just popped into my head last week, and the middle grades novel (yep–same one) that I am determined to finish soon! You know what that means, time to PBIC… Happy writing!