Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Kid Lit Blog Hop #33

Welcome back to the Kid Lit blog Hop #33

I am excited to share a review of a book by an author who is quite an inspiration in the picture book writing world. 
So when I found a copy of her book in my home town library, I was so chuffed.... I wanted to email her right away to say

Then I realised when you are a super popular picture book author, that's not unusual, he he, so I refrained....

Well for a day or so, then I emailed her and she was so chuffed she agreed to join us for an interview. Hurrahhh!!!!!!
So here is my review of
You Can't Sleep Without Sheep
by Susanna Leonard Hill

Description from Amazon:

Whenever Ava can't sleep, she counts sheep. But Ava takes so long to fall asleep, it's the sheep that are growing tired-until finally, they quit! When the sheep promise to find a replacement that Ava can count on, chaos ensues as chickens, cows, pigs, hippos, and more try their hand at jumping over Ava's fence. Finding the perfectly peaceful replacement for sheep might not be so easy after all. With irresistibly adorable art, this delightful take on a familiar sleep tactic is sure to become a bedtime favorite.

Our Review:

 Well, here is another book that Gigi (aged 2.5) loved from the first read.  In my opinion, the sign of a truly fabulous aged appropriate read, is if they are captivated from the moment the book opens.  We loved the quirky take on the age old bed time ritual of counting sheep, and Susanna managed to make this extremely engaging and very funny along the way.
The text is expertly sparse, leaving so much room for the illustrator.

 Our favourite pages are when the pigs have to stop for snacks and are too lazy to jump over the fence, and the Penguins looked at themselves, then looked at each other and said "We need a plan".... Priceless.

I must confess, I wanted to get this one out, regardless of whether the small target audience in our house wanted to or not lol.  I have read so much from Susanna on the craft of picture books that I wanted to see the product of her writerly wisdom. I was not disappointed.

We give this one 5 Stars.

Susanna also has some fabulous resources on her blog including:

and guess who just happens to be up for scrutiny on Feb 19....

Little old me hurrahhhh....

So hop on over to her blog, check out my query and here's your chance to offer some feedback.

Now without further ado.. Susanna joins us in the blogosphere........

1. Tell us about the moment you decided you were a writer. Was it before or after publication….

Good question, Julie! I’ve loved to write since I was very young – 4 or 5 years old – but I didn’t really think of myself as a writer, although writing was always something I did. After my first book was published I began to think of myself as a writer, a little bit, just in my own mind – but I would NEVER have introduced myself that way J It wasn’t until after my 3rd or 4th book was published that I began to feel enough confidence in my identity as a writer that I was willing to say it out loud.
2. What’s the funniest thing a kid has said to you about your books?

Oh, gosh! Well, kids are often unsure as to what kind of animal Punxsutawney Phyllis is. The most common misconception is that she’s a beaver J But I‘ve had children identify her as a chipmunk, a skunk, a raccoon, and a very large mouse J And I don’t know if this qualifies as funny or horrifying but once when I was reading The House That Mack Built (which is about construction vehicles), a child raised her hand and announced that one time she had been riding in a truck with her grandma and her grandma was dead! The teacher and I were speechless. We didn’t know if she was making things up, or confusing events in some way, or what she meant! We moved on quickly from that one!

3. How long did it take to get “Can’t Sleep Without Sheep” from conception to production, and how much did your manuscript change over time.

Can’t Sleep Without Sheep was actually one of the quicker ones. I wrote a couple of drafts, but I wasn’t happy with the ending. After about a week of mulling it over, the answer on how to end it came to me while I was walking my dogs (excellent creativity time J) My agent loved it and sent it right out. It was passed on by the first house that read it, but picked up by the second. They chose Mike Wohnoutka to illustrate, and he was able to do the paintings in about 5 months. So from conception to purchase by Walker was about 6-9 months, and then it was another 18-21 months or so from signing the contract to publication. The manuscript had only one major change to it. The original draft stuck to all farm animals – it went on to goats and such. But my editor liked the idea of having the story get sillier and she asked me to choose a few animals for the second half that weren’t farm animals. I loved her thinking, so I chose penguins, hippos, buffalo, armadillos, flamingos and beavers.

4. What was it like waiting for the illustrations to come in, and how involved in the process were you.

It’s always nerve-wracking waiting for illustrations! I can look up the artist’s style, but that still gives me no idea of how he or she will conceptualize my story and develop it. Usually, I see nothing until the proofs are finished and have no input at all on the illustrations, but with Can’t Sleep I was very fortunate to have an editor who was willing to include me more. I got to see thumbnail sketches pretty early on so I had a general idea of how the book would look, and we did have a small discussion about the similarity in appearance between the hippos and the cows, which was subsequently corrected. And I was absolutely hands-down thrilled at the final product. Mike did a fantastic job! The animals are so appealing, and their facial expressions so perfect! I just love it!

5. What is your latest book and how did you get the idea for it.

My most recently published book is April Fool, Phyllis! It is a sequel to Punxsutawney Phyllis and I got the idea because I loved Phyllis and wanted to give her another story. Since she’s a weather hog, it needed to be something that could revolve around some type of weather. In New York, where I live, winter takes its time about moving out permanently, and one year we had a huge blizzard on April 5. It wasn’t such a big stretch to think of having a blizzard a few days earlier on April Fools Day and having Phyllis’s prediction perceived as an April Fools prank. The treasure hunt part of the story was inspired by the birthday present hunts my dad made for us when we were kids – he would write up puzzle clues and we’d have to solve them to find our presents. I sent Phyllis and the other groundhogs out on a similar Spring Treasure Hunt.

6. What do you have in the pipeline for the future and is it still nerve wracking when your manuscripts are out on submission?

My next book in the pipeline is Alphabedtime! which will be out from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Fall 2015. I bet from the title you can guess what it’s about J Betsy Snyder will be illustrating it, and I believe she has just begun her work, so I won’t get to see any art until at least this fall, but I’ve seen some of her other books and they are wonderful, so I’m really looking forward to it. And yes. It is ALWAYS nerve wracking when my mss are out on submission. It’s nerve wracking just sending new mss to my agent because she’s the first gate-keeper. If she doesn’t like it, it will never go out at all! Any time an editor has one of my stories my hopes are high, but at this point my expectations are not. The market is very tough and there are so many wonderfully talented authors out there that the competition for a publishing contract is fierce. But still… there’s always hope…
Thank you so much for having me, Julie! I really appreciate the opportunity to visit today J

A little more about Susanna
She is an award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children's Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice),No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can't Sleep Without Sheep (a Children's Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom's Choice Award Winner.) Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean. Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Fall 2015. She lives in New York's Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.
Making Picture Book Magic (Online Writing Course)

Thank you so much for joining us Susanna and happy hopping folks....

  Welcome to the 33rd Kid Lit Blog Hop where twice per month (the 1st and 3rd Wednesday) we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children's books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors! We are pleased to welcome Belinda Brock, a writer and blogger, as a co-hostess this week. You can find her at Big welcome to Belinda!

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop

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  1. Love the illustration of those pigs! Looks like an adorable read.

    1. Mike Wohnoutka did such a fabulous job with the illustrations! I hope you'll get a chance to see all of them, Jenny. I have the original horse painting signed to my daughter - it's gorgeous!

    2. Thanks so much for stopping by Jenny, this one is so special. You can not imagine my delight when I found it in our library. I may have had a little squeal even, lol thanks so much for joining us on the Hop

  2. We have to read this, too! Looks adorbs. Thanks for hosting! {{{Hugs}}}

    1. I hope you will enjoy it, Cool Mom! (Cool Mom of Stanely & Katrina?) Thanks for coming over to read!

    2. oh you will love this one Cool Mom, I just know it, thanks so much for stopping by....

  3. Hi Julie...why am I not following your blog already? Guess it doesn't long as I am now.:) I didn't realize that you were part of Kid Lit Blog Hops...I've participated several times.

    What an awesome review of Susanna's fun book...and a great interview!

    Susanna...thank you so much for sharing the publication process - fascinating and informative.:)..And I loved the funny things kids have said to are the best story sparkers, don't you think?

    1. Hurrahhh Vivian, so wonderful that you found us, we have such a fun time on the hop. Thanks so much for stopping by and it was such a delight to host Susanna today....

    2. Thanks so much for coming by to visit, Vivian! I would have thought you'd heard everything I have to say by now! :) I'm glad you got to meet Julie!

  4. thanks for the review and interview! i agree with you totally–book and author are both great! here from the kid lit blog hop!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by Belinda, we just loved this book and Susanna too, he he....

    2. Thanks for your kind words, Belinda! :)

  5. This book sounds like such fun and what a great book for kids who have trouble falling asleep! The pictures are beautiful. It was so much fun to learn more about the author. I was cracking up about the child's comment about their grandma (because I can imagine that moment when you don't know what to do and if they are being honest, or silly, or what). Thanks so much for sharing. :)

    1. Hurrayy Jess, so great to have you back again, thanks so much for stopping by.....

    2. I know Jess - sometimes they really get us! They sure are tons of fun though :)

  6. YAY MS. HILL! (though the girl and her grandma is kind of scary) Great interview Ms. Grasso! ;)

    1. Hurrahh, Erik, I know how much of a fan of Susanna's you are, we are now also in that club, he he. Thanks so much for stopping by....

    2. Thanks, Erik! :) And yes... I know... that WAS scary. The teacher and I simply couldn't imagine what she was thinking!

  7. Hi Julie! I admit to your confession too. Max would be content to read his same Spiderman anthology EVERY SINGLE DAY, so it's up to Momma to introduce some variety into our reading. Thanks for yet again hosting the KLBH!

    1. It's such a great resource, isn't it? If you ever need further picture book recommendations, feel free to check out Perfect Picture Book Fridays - tons of great titles!

  8. How absolutely ADORABLE! I love the concept. Thanks for sharing, Julie!

    1. So glad you think it looks fun, Katie! I hope you like it :)

  9. OMG...totally adding that to the library list for my son...I keep adding books then put them on hold...a great way to get books that may not always be in your library! Then if he really loves it...we can buy it.

  10. We love this book! Really good for those times when kids say they aren't tired!! Thanks for sharing this, Julie. Cheryl

  11. The illustrations of this book are so charming. Thank you for sharing on Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  12. How fantastic to learn more about Susanna - thanks for your interview! This book looks great Julie - thanks for including it in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! :-)