Interview Alert: Henry Herz

34006335Did you know that September 19 was International Talk Like A Pirate Day? You didn’t? Well, I’ll bet today’s interviewee, multi-published author Henry Herz, knew. His latest picture book, Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew, published August 1, is overflowing with pirate pizzazz and dinosaur daring.

Let’s find out more about Henry Herz and Cap’n Rex, and a bit about his two sons, too, who’ve helped Henry create four indie-published children’s books!


 

 

We don’t often hear about authors working with their children. How did this collaboration begin?

Ten years ago, when my sons were five and seven years old, I wanted to share my love of fantasy with them. Struck by inspiration one day, I came up with a way to share the joy of entering the magical realms of fantasy. I would write a fantasy book for them.

What I did not anticipate was that my boys would give me feedback on the story. They devised some of the character (Nimpentoad) and creature (Neebel) names, and made plot line suggestions. And who better to help make the story appealing to kids than other kids? We were sufficiently encouraged by feedback, that we decided to self-publish.

My sons also helped with the art direction. Our artist would give us a rough sketch, and we would provide feedback on details and color palette. My goal of interesting my sons in fantasy transformed into encouraging them to participate in the creative process. In the end, it was a great experience for my sons, and I discovered that I loved to write children’s fiction.

Your latest picture book, Cap’n Rex & His Clever Crew, is hot off the presses. Tell us a bit about the story.

The kernel of this story was the idea that if kids like pirates and they like dinosaurs, then kids would really like a story that combined both. Sort of a literary Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. In fact, I was originally going to write about dinosaur SPACE pirates. However, my critique partners reeled me in, and said that was mashing up too many things. So, my big buccaneers set sail in a triceratops trireme, not a spaceship.

The original title was going to be DINOSAUR PIRATES. As the artwork was being finalized, I discovered that another book was coming out with that very title. So, at my suggestion, we changed the title to better reflect the story.

My favorite illustration shows the crew trudging across an island toward the buried treasure. The illustrator, Ben Schipper, did a great job conveying the personality of Cap’n Rex. He’s out in front, of course, as the leader. But he’s got this jaunty walk that just screams self-confidence or perhaps hubris. And we all know what happens to characters that get too full of themselves…

What do you like best about picture books?

From an author’s perspective, I love the challenge of telling a story, conveying a theme, and developing empathetic characters in 500 words. The whole “brevity is the soul of wit” thing. It really is a unique art form that is very little like writing a novel.

From a reader’s perspective, I love how the illustrations add depth and texture, taking the story to a higher level. What I find ironic, and most non-authors don’t realize, is that there is often very little collaboration between the author and illustrator of a picture book. You sell your manuscript to a publisher, and they take your baby and hand it over to a stranger. Authors must trust the illustrator and publisher to make the story even stronger.

What’s your favorite thing about writing and/or writing books for kids?

The fame and fortune! Seriously, I write fantasy and science fiction for kids because (a) it’s fun and challenging at the same time, and (b) I think those genres are particularly powerful ways to spark a child’s imagination and plant the seed for a lifelong love of reading. I still remember to this day escaping into the magical world of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE in my elementary school library. And if I’m doing my job as a writer, the books will have a secondary appeal to the little kid inside all adult readers. I still love picture books, and so should you! Check out JOURNEY by Aaron Becker or THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen to see what I mean.

Any other books set to be published in the near future?

I have three picture books scheduled to be published next year:

HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican Publishing) – Ever wonder why two of a squid’s ten arms are longer than the others? A selfish squid is cold, so he swipes other animals’ clothing. Will he learn it’s wrong to steal in the end? This modern fable demonstrates you reap what you sow.

GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE (Schiffer Publishing) – Not all the foods in the refrigerator get along like peas in a pod. Bad Apple and Second Banana are at the root of the problem. The vegetables are steamed. Good Egg suggests his friends try different responses to the bullies, but his tactics don’t bear fruit, at first. Only by using his noodle does Good Egg save their bacon.

ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius) – Alice lives in the dreariest boarding school in England. She pours her love and attention into caring for her little garden and its denizens. Unknown to her, these include a large caterpillar, gryphon, and a talking white rabbit. When Alice is in trouble, the magical creatures come to her aid. Love, it turns out, is magical.

Where can fans connect with you online?

Fans can find me at any of the following. I especially recommend the website because it features interviews with successful authors and illustrators, as well as humorous and artistic posts.

Websitehttps://henryherz.wordpress.com/capn-rex-his-clever-crew/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/henry.herz/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/HenryLHerz

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5329496.Henry_L_Herz

Thanks so much for stopping by, Henry! I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for your next books, especially GOOD EGG & BAD APPLE! It sounds perfectly peachy! 🙂


Henry HerzHenry Herz has an engineering Bachelors from Cornell, an engineering Masters from George Washington U., and a national security studies Masters from Georgetown, none of which helps him write fantasy and science fiction for children. He is represented by Deborah Warren of East/West Literary Agency. Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). He participates in literature panels at a variety of conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon. Henry reviews children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review and the San Diego Book Review.

Picture Books At The Library 122

PB at the library 2

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

There’s a book for every taste in this batch!

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A student who uses a wheelchair finds a way to see her dog each day in school.

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A group of kids finds a way to enjoy the day, rain or shine, indoors or out.

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A girl who cannot sleep decides to count sheep and other woolly animals by ones, twos, fives, and tens.

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When the sun goes down, the gorillas come out to dance and play.

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Hippo feels bad that he didn’t bring anything to the picnic, so he sets off to find some berries for his friends.

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Ben loves the very large, very unusual “dog” he adopted, but the townsfolk don’t appreciate the trouble she’s causing.

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When firefighter duckies rescue everyone and everything, chaos ensues.

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A new twist on the classic tale of the hunt for Moby Dick.

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Jack and the townsfolk are tired of eating beans, so Jack climbs up the beanstalk to find something else to eat.

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Counts up ten dogs who are waiting in a shelter, then counts back down to one as each is adopted.

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Rodney’s class goes on a field trip to the park, but it’s not the park Rodney expects.

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A curious cat wonders who owns the moon and all manner of creatures from a bird to the ocean claim it as theirs. Fun to read! Great for repeat readings!

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In the stillness of a summer dawn, two siblings leave their campsite with fishing rods, tackle, and bait and push a red canoe into the lake. Lovely art!

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Philomena gets new glasses, so sister Audrey gets some too. Sister Nora Jane thinks if both of them have them, then shouldn’t she? Adorable!

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Buddy and Earl enjoy their time in school–Buddy as student and Earl as teacher. Cute addition to the series!

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Whobert the owl sets out to solve the case of who killed Perry the Possum. Clever!

New Year=New Beginnings: September’s Winner (plus October’s prize)

Back in January, I posted about a year-long giveaway called New Year=New Beginnings that I’m offering here on Frog on a Blog–a new prize each month for folks who comment on blog posts. With so much negative energy floating around in the world, I wanted to do something positive to show my gratitude to my followers, fans, and friends for their support.

I cannot believe how quickly this year has passed. It’s October! The holidays are right around the corner! Time is moving too fast for me these days, but at least I have the pleasure of announcing September’s prize winner and the October prize. First let’s recap January through September:

January’s prize was a copy of my book The Peddler’s Bed.

February’s prize was an adorable plushie Curious George.

March’s prize was a set of Pilot’s pens, a Night Writer 2-pack with LED lights, perfect for writing in the dark, and a must have for writers or travelers.

April’s prize was winner’s choice of either a picture book manuscript critique (for writers) or a Personal Library Kit (for book lovers).

May’s prize was a set of two darling bookmarks: A Hippo and a Crocodile.

June’s prize was a Maurice Sendak Nutshell Library box set that includes four tiny classics: Alligators All AroundChicken Soup With RiceOne Was Johnny, and Pierre.

July’s prize was a set of two music CDs by the amazing Emily Arrow: Storytime Singalong volumes 1 and 2!

August’s prize was a super cute, super fun novelty Writer’s Block Journal filled with 300 blank pages, ready and waiting for inspiration to hit!

September’s prize was a Dr. Seuss finger puppet set featuring three lovable characters from The Lorax (my favorite Dr. Seuss book)!

Dr Lorax2

And the winner of September’s prize is…

Sheri Murphy

Congratulations Sheri! Please contact me with your mailing address by clicking HERE. The Lorax and his friends will soon be heading your way!


If you haven’t won a prize yet, there are still three more chances to win this year!

And even if you can’t win because you’ve won already or because you’re not a US resident, I still welcome your comments and appreciate your support of Frog on a Blog.

October’s prize is a splendid scarf designed to look like a library due date card. It’s not too heavy, so it’s perfect for the cooler temperatures of fall or just for looking stylish.

Scarf

Comment on this post or any post during the month of October for a chance to win. For more information on how to qualify for prizes, click HERE.

Due to contest/sweepstakes regulations in other countries, this giveaway is available to U.S. residents only. I’m very sorry fans and followers from other nations. I still appreciate you! All winners are chosen at random.

Why Does My Picture Book Feel Like A Folktale? It Might Be Folktale-ish!

Folktales Inside

Have you written a story that everyone says feels like a folktale but you’re not sure why?

Do you love folktales and want to write a story with a similar feel but you’re not sure where to start?

What exactly is a folktale?

Are picture books with a folktale feel even being published today?

What can you learn by reading traditional folktales that will help you write a folktale-ish picture book for today’s market?

Hop on over to Literally Lynne Marie and My Word Playground where I answer all of these questions in my guest article Folktale-ish!

Read to the end to find out how you can win a picture book from Lynne’s 2016 Cybils stash!

Picture Book Personals (the last)

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Picture Book Personals

Sadly, this is the last Picture Book Personals post. I have featured 52 classic picture book titles over the past several months and, although I’m sure there are others, I just can’t think of any more. I hope you’ve enjoyed playing along. Here’s the clue and answer to last week’s Picture Book Personals.

Old lady seeks slithering companion to shop, knit, teach, and eat with, and to capture burglars.

What Classic Picture Book Am I?

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It’s Crictor, of course!

Picture Books At The Library 121

PB at the library 2

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.

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When Mama hears Brooks and Mikey fighting over yet another toy, she takes it away.

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A young boy tracks down an elusive ghost in the hidden rooms of a fantastical magic shop.

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Bear has made a den for himself, and chairs and tables and beds, but something is still missing.

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When school supplies go missing, Chico the monkey investigates the mystery.

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A girl is excited when the circus comes to town, but her family is too busy with farm chores to enjoy it.

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Princess Truly’s adventures are a celebration of individuality, girl power, diversity, and dreaming big.

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Eli the dog has been with Astrid since she was a baby, and now that Eli is getting older, Astrid wants to make fun memories with him. Sweet!

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Mama Lion and Tigey compete in a cross country road race where they discover that coming in first isn’t what makes you a winner.

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Sadie and Sherman set out to save a goldfish that was tossed into the ocean by an ungrateful girl.

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Lily the lamb imagines she’s a gymnast, a cowboy, a cupid, and more, but her big imagination gets her into even bigger trouble. Love the art!

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Little Philbert the mouse tries everything he can think of to get fellow tea lover Oliver the cat’s attention.

Engineer Arielle drives her train through Jerusalem on Israel Independence Day.

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A troupe of merry volunteers attempt to rescue poor Billy Bloo from the goo, only to find themselves stuck as well.

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Six playful penguins follow simple clues that lead them to find each letter of the alphabet.

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It’s almost the first day of school and Bonaparte is literally falling to pieces. Love the art in this one too!

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The kittens need a teacher. Is cat up for the toughest job yet? Fun addition to the Cat series!

Picture Book Personals (52)

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Picture Book Personals

Old lady seeks slithering companion to shop, knit, teach, and eat with, and to capture burglars.

What Classic Picture Book Am I?

Crictor

Leave your best guess in the comments below. Find out the answer next week.

And the answer to last week’s Picture Book Personals is…

The Amazing Bone

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Do you remember it?

Returning Soon: Picture Books At The Library

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted a new Picture Books At The Library list is several weeks. The reason I haven’t is because my library was in the process of moving into a brand-new building and no new items, books or media, had been ordered or received for the collection during that time. 

But now we are all settled into our beautiful, modern, two-story, built-from-the-ground up, completely new building, and ordering has resumed. Items that had been on hold at our vendors have been arriving, including picture books. That means I’ll be posting a list of shiny new picture books next Monday.

In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, I’ve got pictures of the new Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville to share with you. 

*All photos are the property of the Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville

Front Entrance

Front Entrance of the Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville

Upper and Lower Level

A view of the upper and lower levels of the Library

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One of the coolest spaces in the Library is the teen room. We call it the Vault.

 

Provisions

The Provisions Express cafe in the Library’s lobby

 

Me At VIP Event

This is me standing on the outdoor patio. The photo was taken through the window from inside the Library and you can see the books reflected in the glass.

The Library also features the Hive, our makerspace for all sorts of creative endeavors, several community rooms for group meetings and tutoring, a green roof with solar panels and plants (including chives, Angelina stonecrop, and Aizoon stonecrop), and a spacious, colorful children’s room with a gorgeous mural depicting the Erie Canal, done by local artists Elliott Mattice and Kathy Maio. Here’s one section of the three-piece mural:

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The centerpiece of the Library’s Erie Canal themed mural by Elliott Mattice and Kathy Maio

If you’re ever in the neighborhood, stop by, say hi, and check out our new Library (and a few picture books, too)! 🙂

Picture Book Personals (51)

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Picture Book Personals

Young pig seeks enchanted bone to foil hungry fox’s dinner plan.

What Classic Picture Book Am I?

Amazing Bone

Leave your best guess in the comments below. Find out the answer when the next Picture Book Personals is posted.

And the answer to last week’s Picture Book Personals is…

Bark, George

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Meow.

Picture Book Personals (50)

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Picture Book Personals

Frazzled mama dog seeks vet to help pup bark.

What Classic Picture Book Am I?

Bark George

Leave your best guess in the comments below. Find out the answer when the next Picture Book Personals is posted.

And the answer to last week’s Picture Book Personals is…

Go Away Big Green Monster!

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Of course!