Thursday, October 21, 2010

Madge at the Helm

Greetings, readers,

Madge here. My goodness, we've been neglecting our readers for far too long. I say, this is no way to run a blog!

Until we get our act together and establish regular posts, we want to share some of our favorite blogs with you. Fly on over to these roosts and enjoy...but do come back. We promise to have new content soon!

Ta-ta for now!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Hoot! Hoot! It's almost time for PiBoIdMo!


Invent and write down one picture book idea (at least!) each day for every day in the month of November. If you are moved to write the whole story right then and there, go for it. Then write another idea the next day. If your idea is a mere fragment, wisp, thread of a thought, write it down anyway.

The goal is to get your brain thinking in the picture book format so that, at the end of the month, you have a file full of ideas to write.

I'm's my badge:

Will you join me? Complete the challenge and prizes will come your way. More details can be found here.

Let's get ready to write and create!

Liz and Madge

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Picture Book Perfection

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post...

Madge felt we should address the article in The New York Times regarding the possibility that picture books are in danger of being replaced by chapter books as parents push their kids to read up.

The link can be found here and a great blog post about the article is here.

While I understand parents and their constant belief that they must challenge their children in every aspect of life, reading should be fun and easy and enjoyable. Whether your child is reading CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM or CLEMENTINE or TEN MINUTES TILL BEDTIME--all books I think are fantastic no matter how old you are--your child is learning all kinds of important things. They're learning that it's ok to have the courage to pick up a new book, open it, and decide to tackle all the words inside; they are learning to decipher context clues in the illustrations as well as the text (and the best picture books have clues in both); and they're learning vocabulary that can at times be more sophisticated and subtle than the simple words in easy readers and early chapter books. They're also learning social mores and behavior expectations from characters who are spunky, mischievous, and imperfect, just like them.

As a picture book author and editor, I feel passionately that this genre is crucial to a child's reading career. Picture books have few boundaries and that makes them perfect vehicles to teach kids possibly the most important thing they can ever learn--let your imagination run wild and life will never be boring.

Please, keep reading picture books to your kids, no matter how old they are, and if they are little, let them stay little and plunge headlong into the incredible world of picture books! Waiting to catch them are bears and princesses, pirates and mice, dragons, ghosts, hamsters, hedgehogs, reindeer, dump trucks, dinosaurs, and so much more.

Madge and Liz

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

From a reader to a critiquer...

In high school and college, I discovered literary criticism—otherwise known as English papers. And that kind of writing made sense to me. I learned the analytical vocabulary and dissected great works of literature. But I kept a wall between my lit crit brain and my reading-for-pleasure brain, unwilling to dissect the stories I had loved all my life.

When I became an editor, that wall came crashing down, and stories turned into things to be analyzed—this time for marketability and saleability. I ran programs that ran budgets and told me whether an adorable poem about a bulldozer set to a popular preschool rhyme would earn me enough money to offset the cost of producing it. Authors and illustrators and their creations turned into commodities, and I had to tell myself over and over that the end user—kids—were the most important part of this vast corporate equation. Here are some of the books I was fortunate enough to work on:

When I worked in bookstores, shelving, cashiering, dusting…and recommending, I discovered that that was what I loved. I finally had a chance to influence others—widen their world through books I had read and liked or disliked, show them older books that were less popular but not any less wonderful, and learn from the customers about new books to devour. I watched kids line up eagerly for the next installment in the Redwall series, reluctant readers come to life with Matt Christopher’s sports books, and become frustrated along with teachers angry about the lack of diversity in so many aspects of children’s publishing.

There has almost never been a part of my life where books have not existed in one form or another. And now, with the publication of THE SPOOKY WHEELS ON THE BUS, I’m surrounded once again by books, fellow writers and illustrators, librarians, and literary bliss. 

Next time: Madge's book pick of the week!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just an average Pittsburgh bookaholic...

I grew up inside one book or another. Libraries were my heaven—full of all kinds of books, thick tomes and skinny illustrated stories—15 books were never enough each week, but that was the limit. So I piled them up on the counter, showed my library card, got the books stamped, and struggled home with my wobbly stack. I read everything—the Little House series, all the Ramona books, MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH, THE RED PONY, THE BLACK PEARL, ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, THE HOUSE OF DIES DREAR, even books whose titles I’ve long forgotten but whose covers still linger hazily in my mind.

I loved books. I didn’t know how to get around my city by car until I started driving, because I would plop myself down in the backseat, open a book, and not close it until long after the car had stopped moving. Stories took me from place to place—trips as short as the grocery store and as long as vacations to Washington D.C. and Boston. I felt a kinship with the characters I knew so well—I understood misunderstood Ramona, nodding sympathetically even when Beezus and her mother shook their heads disbelievingly. Of course the first bite of an apple is the best! I longed to wear a bonnet like Laura did, just so I could let it hang loose behind my head as I ran through sunny meadows, letting my face turn brown. I imagined myself in medieval times, pioneer days, in the midst of China with Eleanor Lattimore’s Little Pear and hunched down on the frosty tundra with Miyax. To this day, I feel a kinship with wolves, having read Jean Craighead George’s series over and over and over, until I could feel the permafrost on the tundra.

I took vacations in books. The frame of the family car or the walls of my house would melt away and I’d lose myself in the details of stories, immersed in a brand-new climate and surrounding. My imagination was vast and filled with destinations. 
I never felt like much of a writer, though. I wrote, of course—the Pittsburgh Public School system had set up creative writing as part of the language arts curriculum in its grade schools and middle schools and so I composed poems and wrote stories I could never find an ending to, and I always felt like I was trying to walk a tightrope without ever having tried to before. The safety net below me was full of the stories I liked to read, stories I knew were far, far better than anything I was attempting to create. 

Next time...I discover my inner critic!

Monday, October 4, 2010


Greetings, friends, from high up in Madge's Treehouse, where Madge the owl and I discuss and recommend books for small kids, books for big kids, and chat about the book industry in general. Over a strong cup of coffee, of course!

Stay tuned as we dive into story structure, writing, plot, characters, promotion, Madge's extraordinary ability to keep this treehouse mouse-free, and many others. Leave comments, by all means--we look forward to hearing from you!


Madge and Liz