If you read my book, Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees, you may have become fascinated (as I did) with the real Pando.
To review, Pando is, as the Friends of Pando website explains, “a quaking aspen clone comprised of over 40,000 stems. Stems which appear to us as individual trees, but in fact, are one part of a genetically identical tree that spreads out over 106 acres via a massive root system.”
Pando may be hundreds or thousands of years old. Now, its survival is threatened, but luckily, dedicated and brilliant people are working to save it.
Friends of Pando is a nonprofit group doing the essential science and education work to save Pando. Their work will not only protect this particular tree, but also inform efforts to save other “mega-fauna” the world over.
Their website includes free resources for adults and kids and the latest information on their scientific work. These resources can be used in the classroom or any other educational setting (hello, fellow homeschoolers!).
School Library Journal writes, “Fox takes lessons from the natural world that are all but unfathomable and creates a perfect tale, gorgeously evoked in the illustrations, that is sure to inspire readers to learn more about the environment and their role within it.”
There’s still time to get your copy before the holidays (currently 20% off on Amazon)! Order your copy here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a signed copy!
Today is a day I’ve dreamed about for a long time: the official release date of my very first book! Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees, illustrated by Turine Tran, is out in the world!
This book has been years in the making. I wrote my first draft in early 2019. I signed with an agent in April 2019. The publisher made an offer on the book in October of that year, and I signed the official contract in early 2020. Then came revisions, illustrations, more revisions, more illustrations, printing, marketing.
Getting to a book’s birthday is a long road in the best of circumstances, but I have had so many wonderful co-conspirators in bringing this book into the world.
So Many Thank Yous
I want to thank Dr. Paul Rogers, who patiently taught me about Pando and believed in this book from the beginning; Mary Cummings, who represented and sold this book; Michelle Bisson and Krissy Mohn, who edited it for Capstone; Turine Tran, the brilliant illustrator who made the book what it is; Jennifer Glidden, my wonderful publicist at Capstone and the rest of the team there who helped get the book into the world.
I also would be remiss not to recognize the many wonderful writers who gave me feedback and crafted this book into what it is, especially Joel Chalmers, who read and improved so many awful drafts. Thank you to many friends and family members who have supported me on my writing journey–reading drafts, preordering, reviewing, and cheering me on. And, I would like to especially thank my mom and dad, who have always believed in me and my writing. Love you.
Order & Register for Launch If you haven’t already ordered your copy of Pando, order today from Leopard Print Books before our big launch event next Sunday, August 22nd. You can register for the launch here. Pando is also available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, your local bookseller, and Barnes and Noble.
Already have your copy? Please, please, please leave a review (even a short one) on Amazon or Goodreads! Reviews help an author more than anything by getting new readers to discover the book (the more reviews, the more often Amazon will suggest it to shoppers).
Thank you all so much! And happy reading! And stay tuned to this station for more book news!
I’m also thrilled to shared several recent interviews I’ve done with great folks in the picture book community. I’ve talked a lot about my path to publication, writing process, and advice to other writers.
Interview with Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez of Math is Everywhere. Read here.
Tuesday Debut with Susanna Leonard Hill. Read here.
Panel interview with Maria Marshall on upcoming nonfiction. Read here.
Buckle up! It’s debut time! In exactly one month, my debut picture book, Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees (illustrated by Turine Tran), will hit shelves.
If you preorder (or already have), I will send you a signed bookplate for your copy, and you will be entered to win a Grow Your Own Aspen kit! How cool is that?! You will also be entered to win a *second* signed copy of Pando to share with a friend or leave in a Free Little Library.
Preorders help create book buzz, help new bookstores and readers discover the book by increasing its ranking, and help you get your copy ASAP. They can even influence an author’s future book deals by showing how well their books sell (or don’t). In fact, preordering from an independent bookstore is the single most important thing you can do to support an author (especially a debut author like me).
You can grab a copy from:
Leopard Print Books, who will be hosting my virtual launch party on 8/22 (registration details coming soon).
A story’s first line is an invitation to the reader. In a few short phrases, the author introduces the subject and tone of the story, creating context and mood. This is particularly true of picture books, where low word counts create even more pressure for an opening line that pulls the reader in. So much pressure can make finding just the right words challenging.
Today, I’m going to show you the transformation of my debut’s opening line. Keep reading to the end for details on a critique GIVEAWAY! (Spoiler: everyone who enters wins!)
Finding the Right Words
When I was getting ready to query the manuscript that became my debut, Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees (illustrated by Turine Tran, out from Capstone on August 1st), I thought I had a solid opening.
The environmentally-focused story, which tells the story of 47,000 Aspen trees connected by their roots to form one of the world’s largest living organisms, began with a somewhat long introduction of the trees and their roots.
Then, I entered the fabulous #PBParty contest, where the submission required only sending the first 50 words. Looking at my first 50 words, I realized that there was no tension in my opening. It was all introduction.
I redesigned and tightened the opening to make the best impression I could–cutting the second paragraph to get to meat of the story sooner. I entered the contest with high hopes, but in a crowded field, I didn’t make it to the final round where agents and editors could request my work.
I was a bit crushed, but I kept going. As I read through the finalists’ entries, I saw that agent Mary Cummings was participating in the contest and was looking for books like mine. Feeling hopeful, I sent her my query with this opening line:
“Thousands of trees stand in one grove
So many trees that you could start counting at dawn
And keep counting until the moon rose.”
But when I heard back from Mary, the opening line was the first thing she wanted to change. She pointed out that my opening lines sounded like an attempt at rhyme. A near-rhyme at the beginning of a non-rhyming story sets the wrong expectations for a reader. This invitation-to-the-reader was for the wrong party.
Looking back at this now, I also see that while it introduces the trees, it doesn’t do much other than that and is a bit overwrought.
With Mary’s feedback, I decided to reimagine my opening (again). I wanted to foreshadow the story’s tension between nature and development. I thought of starting with the image of a highway near the forest. I came up with “Near a highway, a forest stands firm.”
It had tension, and I liked the idea of the forest enduring or “standing firm.” And it was a lot shorter (a plus in my book)! But it didn’t sound quite right to my ear. I wanted an adjective before “highway.” A word to describe its sound. But what? I couldn’t find the right word.
I did what any young(ish) person in 2019 would do. I turned to the internet! In the private Facebook group of the 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, I asked for suggestions to describe the sound of a highway. Someone suggested “humming,” which I loved the alliteration of.
I revised to “Near a humming highway, a forest stands firm.” I sent that opening to Mary, which she liked and submitted to publishers.
After getting an offer from Capstone, I began revisions with my wonderful editor. She suggested adding the word “giant” to give the audience a sense of the size of the forest (while that had been the singular focus of my earlier drafts, it wasn’t even included in my revised opening line). So, I revised one last time.
In the final book, the opening line reads “Near a humming highway, a giant forest stands firm.”
A lot of work for nine words, but finding the right words is always worth the effort!
In celebration of Earth Day, I am giving away critiques of the first 50 words of any manuscript.
All you have to do is pre-order Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees between April 18-22. Send proof of purchase on one of those dates and your first 50 words of your manuscript to email@example.com with “Earth Day Giveaway” in subject line.
There’s so much to love about this book! Let’s start with the obvious: it is, to quote my preschooler, “silly, silly, SILLY!” Each page turn to a new mixed animal sound invites laughter from listeners of all ages. My toddler also got in on the fun, joyfully repeating animal sounds and declaring “COW NO SAY MEOW!””
Older readers will love the narrator’s pun-filled wordplay on each spread, while younger readers will be drawn in by Scott’s colorful and bold illustrations.
Even the book’s endpapers (those are the papers glued to the insides of the front and back covers) continue the fun. In the front, the animals are saying the wrong sounds, but by the back cover, they’re singing the right tunes. Kids of all ages will find much to love in this joyful and udderly silly read.
Order your copy today to see what everyone’s clucking about. And click here to save your seat at a FREE virtual launch event.
About the author
Kirsti Call is the author of Mootilda’s Bad Mood, and other farm-related picture books. She lives outside of Boston where she gets inspiration from her five kids, husband, and backyard chickens. Instagram @kirsticall; kirsticall.com
About the illustrator
By day, Brandon James Scott is a Creative Director working in animation, and by night he illustrates children’s books. For over a decade, Brandon has worked on a range of hit animated entertainment including his own creation, the award-winning preschool series, Justin Time. He’s passionate for projects that value a sense of adventure, levity and heart—those that bring a genuine curiosity for the fantastic and whimsical world around us. A born and raised Canadian, he currently lives with his family in Toronto, Ontario. brandonjamesscott.com
As a picture book creator, getting high-quality feedback on your work can be a huge hurdle to upping your writing game. Good news! Brian Gehrlein (author of THE BOOK OF RULES–out next year–and creator of pbspotlight.com) is running a FANTASTIC critique giveaway this month!
Some of the biggest names in kidlit, including Ame Dykman, Tara Lazar, and ten top agents (and so many more!), are giving away critiques. This is an amazing opportunity to get professional feedback on your work for $0. That’s right. ZERO DOLLARS. My favorite price of all the prices.
So, hurry over to pbspotlight.com to enter to win before doors close on October 30th.
When you think of teaching science, you might imagine dry, boring textbooks. And if you unexpectedly find yourself homeschooling this year, you might be less than enthused about teaching those.
Luckily for you, your local library is chock full of gorgeous, engaging STEM picture books. These books are perfect for early elementary schoolers and also have great read-aloud qualities for preschoolers. If you have older kids, consider using an engaging picture book to ignite interest in a topic before delving deeper into the details.
I firmly believe that picture books are for everyone from babies to adults. Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer used them to prep for his historic winning streak. And these books are not only informative, but beautifully written and illustrated pieces of art.
I am this cow. She is me. We are one. And we are in a bad moooooooood!
Mootilda’s Bad Mood by Corey Rosen Scwartz and Kristi Call and illustrated by Claudia Ranucci comes out September 1st, and I may need all the time between now and then to list all the things I love about it.
The rhyme rolls off the tongue. The puns are hilarious. The story is quick and fun; full of emotion and action.
Despite Mootilda’s titular bad mood, I can’t read a page of this book without smiling. And there’s this:
This refrain is irresistible. If you can read this without moo-ing, I will award the highest award of the Order of Seriousness because is this seriously silly stuff. My two-year-old mooed with delight. My four-year-old giggled. They both mooed for the next twenty minutes.
Which was great because I could do the dishes in peace. Cheapest babysitting I’ve found in years.
In all seriousness, I love this book (if you can’t tell). It’s 32 pages of perfect rhythm, rhyme, and fun. And let’s not forget the bright and beautiful illustrations! They’re just as packed with fun and emotion as the text.
Underneath it all, there’s a wonderful theme of acknowledging and honoring your emotions. Even if you need to moo to do it! This book is a surefire way to get out of a bad moooooooooood!
Mootilda’s Bad Mood is available for pre-order here! It’s perfect for fans of Click, Clack, Moo, Little Blue Truck, and laughing in general.