Author/Illustrator Gabe Jensen Talks Art Process (+ win a pb manuscript critique!)

Please welcome children’s book author/illustrator Gabe Jensen to Frog on a Blog! Gabe stopped by to talk a bit about the art process he used when he created his book Neverwoof, which was just published this past September by Familius. This rollicking read-aloud has already garnered several positive reviews. I don’t know about you, but I love hearing about how artists create their art and why they choose the style that they do. Let’s hear from Gabe!

Gabe Jensen sharing Neverwoof.

For NEVERWOOF, I wanted to return to a simpler time in kids’ books when you could only print in two colors. And often those colors were clashing. I don’t remember as a kid ever thinking, “Great story, but the color theory was off” 🙂 . It also gave me a ready activity to do with classes: kids color with their two favorite crayons. I love the resulting images.

Kid’s two-color activity.

Normal 4-color printing has limits on certain colors — especially orange. So we printed this book with spot color where they can mix up any Pantone. It’s more expensive, but it means the book has an orange you won’t see in most titles. I don’t know if people pick up on that, but maybe subconsciously.

Gabe with spreads from Neverwoof.

When I was writing the book, my dad — the science fiction writer Terry Bisson — helped me with the text. My mom is a quilter with a wonderful sense of color, and we sat together to choose the exact orange and green.

One of Gabe’s mom’s quilts.
One of Gabe’s dad’s books.
Gabe says, “I really, really like green and orange.” 🙂

Working with the people at Familius was really great. They gave me a lot of creative latitude, and my editor/book designer Brooke Jorden contributed the debossing of the cover, which gives it that great tactile feel.

Thank you, Gabe! That was truly fascinating.

Giveaway Time!

Gabe has generously offered-to one lucky winner-a picture book manuscript critique! Just leave a comment on this blog post by April 15th for your chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random and contact you with information on how to connect with Gabe. Share this blog post on any social media site and earn one extra entry per site, just let me know where you shared. Good luck!

Gabe first tried to publish a kids book at age 19 (Nightbringers is still looking for a home — anyone? 🙂 ). Since then, he’s worked on kid’s digital projects, like Jeff Kinney’s (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) site Poptropica, as a puzzle designer (Castlemouse, Lumosity), and an ad creative for clients like Coca-Cola. He has three kids, and lives in Berkeley, CA with a two-eyed Cyclops (false) and a one-eyed cat (true).

He’s currently working on his second book NOCTURNAL NICO, about a kid who tries to convince his parents he’s nocturnal so he can stay up late. Hmmm, how about purple and yellow?

Gabe says, “I love pics of pups reading Neverwoof! Send them to me at and I’ll post on social media.”

Find Gabe here:



5 Terrific Dogs In Children’s Books by Rob Biddulph

I love picture books about dogs (I think I’ve mentioned that a time or two), so I’m super pleased to welcome author/illustrator Rob Biddulph to Frog on a Blog! Rob’s new picture book Odd Dog Out was just released December 3 by HarperCollins. Odd Dog Out features an adorable little dog who doesn’t feel like she belongs, so she sets off on a journey to find her place in the world. Rob’s stopped by today to share five literary dogs who have made an impact on his life.

Before we get to that, allow me to share three of my favorite dogs, one real, one literary, and one loved since childhood: my precious dog Java, Happy (from my book The Peddler’s Bed, illustrated by Bong Redila), and Sunshine (my stuffed dog in overalls, whom I received for Christmas when I was 7, and still have).


Now, let’s hear from Rob Biddulph, author and illustrator of Odd Dog Out!

5 Terrific Dogs In Children’s Books

by Rob Biddulph

Dingo Dog

Dingo Dog – Richard Scarry

Growing up, I loved reading anything and everything by Richard Scarry. His work has directly influenced me many times, particularly when I was working on Odd Dog Out. I tried really hard to cram as much detail into my artwork as he did in his. I love the idea that readers might spot something on the ninth or tenth read that they hadn’t noticed before. I would love trying to spot Dingo Dog, my favourite of his characters, as he zoomed through the pages of Storybook Dictionary or What Do People Do All Day?. He would always wear his white cowboy hat and drive his smart red sports car with sharks teeth painted on the front. I thought he was the coolest! 

Snoopy Peanuts.png

Snoopy – Charles M Schultz

One of my all-time favourites. He was, in turn, funny, selfish, wise, crazy and reckless. But, in my eyes, he was always loveable. I particularly liked his British World War I flying ace persona. I had a plush version of Snoopy that would sleep in my bed with me every night. In fact, I think I need to go up into my attic and see if I can find him. He must be lonely…

Odie the Dog.svg

Odie – Jim Davis

I spent a large proportion of my childhood copying Jim Davis’s drawings of Garfield, Odie and Jon. I can still draw them perfectly now. When I speak to children on my book tours, I always advise them to have a go at copying their favourite cartoon characters from comic books or newspapers. Then I usually have to explain what a ‘newspaper’ is (!) but they eventually get the idea. I think that by working out how someone else draws a cat or a dog, it can really help when it comes to inventing your own characters. I always particularly enjoyed drawing Odie. That tongue! He’s just so loveable.

Image result for dogger by shirley hughes

Dogger – Shirley Hughes

Dogger, the story of a little boy who loses his beloved toy dog at the school fair, is the first book I ever remember reading. In many ways, it has defined the art of storytelling for me ever since. I know from experience how difficult it is to squeeze a complete story arc into just twenty-eight pages, but Shirley Hughes somehow manages to take us on a journey through a huge range of emotions: happiness, excitement, worry, sadness and, ultimately, exhilaration. Rarely has the end of a story felt so satisfying. She also manages to throw in an element of mis-direction (we’re really not overly thrilled when Bella wins the bear) and hide a few visual clues as to what is going to happen within her wonderfully evocative illustrations. This makes the second read a very different experience to the first – something that is essential in a picture book that will, in all probability, be read night after night. 

Related image
Fang from Harry Potter (movie)

Fang – J K Rowling

Has there ever been a dog less appropriately named than this gentle giant? Well, actually, yes there has. Fluffy, the three-headed chap guarding the trapdoor leading to the underground chamber where the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone was hidden. I would have liked to have rehomed Fluffy. I think he just needed some love and affection.

After taking the world by storm with his first two picture books (Blown Away and The Grizzly Bear Who Lost His GRRRRR!), Rob Biddulph decided to blaze his own trail and is now a full-time author and illustrator. Rob Biddulph was the award-winning art director of Observer magazine. 

When not working doggedly on creating his characters, he makes up stories for his three daughters and draws pictures to go with them. He lives and works in London, and his very first book, Blown Away, won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

Thank you so much, Rob!

Happy Holidays everyone! And remember, picture books, such as Odd Dog Out, would make great Christmas gifts for the little ones on your list this year, especially dog lovers!

Interview Alert: Leah Gilbert


I fell in love with this book as soon as I saw the cover. I mean, just look at that llama perched precariously, yet comfortably, on the arm of that sofa. Love!!!

I flipped through the pages and was treated to more gorgeous illustrations featuring that lovable llama. After I read the text, I knew I wanted to learn more about Leah Gilbert the author/illustrator of A COUCH FOR LLAMA, a wonderfully sweet and majorly funny picture book about a caring family, a curious llama, and a brand new couch.

I’m excited to share Leah Gilbert’s interview with you today!

Q. What inspired you to create your hilarious debut picture book A COUCH FOR LLAMA?

L.G. I got the idea for A COUCH FOR LLAMA driving to work one day! I would sometimes see a few llamas grazing in a field that I used to drive by on my way to work. I thought they were fun (and I really like cute, fluffy animals) so I usually looked to see if I could see them out there, and was always excited when I did. One day, the llamas weren’t out, but there was a couch sitting on the side of the road near where I would see the llamas, and the story idea was born!

Q. What came first, the words or the pictures?

L.G. Both! I almost always think of words and images together. The first thumbnail sketches I did for this book have the words written on the pages in my sketchbook.

Q. Llama is so full of personality! As a dog lover, I can’t help but notice a few canine traits in him. Am I right?

L.G. Ha, yes! Good eye! I did take some inspiration for Llama’s silly poses from the silly ways my Cavapoo, Camden, sits around the house sometimes… mostly in the illustrations on the endpapers. Inspiration can come from many places, including pups!

Q. Have you always been an artistic person? Besides writing and illustrating children’s books, in what ways have you used your creative skills?

L.G. It has always been my dream since I was a kid to write and especially illustrate children’s books. I have always LOVED drawing, and was always doodling and creating things throughout my entire childhood. In high school, I spent as much time as I could in the art room and taking art classes, and majored in Illustration and Graphic Design in college. For the past 10 years, I have worked at a greeting card company as an artist and designer illustrating and designing cards, calendars, bookmarks, and other gift products.

Q. Who are your favorite picture book authors or illustrators?

L.G. Wow, so many… it’s hard to choose favorites! I have too many current favorites to list, but some lifelong favorites of mine are Peter Spier, Jack Kent, Frank Muir, David Wiesner, and Beatrix Potter. I think these have probably had the most influence on me and my style as an author and illustrator, especially Peter Spier—I have always just loved his illustrations and the way he told so much of the story through the art—and Beatrix Potter’s personal story of being a female author and illustrator has always been an inspiration to me.

Q. Why do you believe picture books are important?

L.G. Lots of reasons! Reading to kids at an early age is so important, and picture books are some of the first exposure kids have to books—either being read to by an adult or paging through by themselves, “reading” the story through pictures before they can read words. I also think picture books can be so important for kids even after they’re reading chapter books. You don’t need to outgrow picture books at a certain age just because your reading level goes up—they are a powerful storytelling medium for all ages! The combination of the words and illustrations in picture books is such a unique and great way to bring joy as well as communicate things that words alone can’t do as well, and picture books do that in a way that no other medium does quite the same.

Q. Where can fans go to connect with you?

L.G. I’m on Twitter (@lalaleeeah), Instagram (@leahgilbertbooks), and my website is!


Leah’s Studio

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

L.G. My husband and I recently replaced our well-loved couch with a new one, and writing this book made me look at that experience in a whole new way! I felt like I should go find a llama who would like our old one 😉

Thank you so much, Leah, it was a pleasure getting to know you! I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books from you in the near future.

Leah Gilbert Leah grew up just blocks from Lake Michigan in a small Wisconsin town, with a deep love of art, books, and The Lake. After earning her bachelor’s degree in illustration and graphic design, she moved to Colorado where she has worked as an illustrator and designer at a greeting card company for the past nine years. She currently lives in the Denver area with her husband and a fluffy puppy, and still has a deep love of art, books, and The Lake… and the mountains, too.

Picture and bio from Leah Gilbert’s website:

My View Book Review: The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog in the Mountains


Title: The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog in the Mountains

Author: Dagny McKinley

Illustrator: Ostap Stetsiv

Publisher/Year: Undiscovered Earth Publications/2012

Favorite Line: The girl’s soul lived in the mountains where trees grow into the clouds.

A barefooted young girl and her dog explore the wonders of nature that surround their home in the mountains. They spend all day outside playing, inspecting, observing, relaxing, and enjoying their natural world. They pick flowers, drink from streams, listen to the quiet sounds, get dirty, and breathe in the fresh air. They feel content. They feel happy. They feel at home.

The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog in the Mountains is a super sweet ode to nature. The text is lyrical, almost like a song. It’s quiet, like the country life it portrays. Yet, author Dagny McKinley’s affinity for the outdoors, her love of nature, comes through strong and clear. Ostap Stetsiv’s illustrations are vibrant and lovely, conveying a world in which, if you were to step into the book, you could hear the crickets chirping and the birds singing. Maybe you would even feel the breeze on your skin.

I was immediately drawn to this book because I can’t resist picture books about dogs. (I’ve mentioned before that my own dog inspires much of my writing.) But after reading the story, I find myself drawn more to the girl, who, even though we get to know her through her interactions with her dog and with nature, still feels like a bit of a mystery to me. Who is this girl? Why does she live in the mountains? Who are her parents? I want to know more about her and I think kids will be curious too. Perhaps we’ll discover more in McKinley and Stetsiv’s next book The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog in the Snow.


WOW Blog Tour: A Dog Dreams of Paris

This is Java. Since he’s part Lhasa Apso, I think he may be dreaming of Tibet. What do you think?

I love my dog, Java. He brings so much joy into my life. My husband and I adopted him from a local animal shelter about five years ago and I can’t even imagine my life without him now. He’s inspired several of my stories including one that is currently being considered by a publisher.

As a dog lover, when I heard about the blog tour for Barbara Barth’s A Dog Dreams of Paris, I was curious to learn more about the book. It’s all about a real rescue dog named April, the sixth dog to be adopted by Barbara! And when I discovered that a portion of all book sales will be donated to animal rescue, I signed up for the tour without hesitation.

Barbara’s had some success with raising funds for charities through book sales, a topic I’m very interested in, and has written an article for Frog on a Blog about three positive experiences she’s had doing exactly that–Earmarking a Portion of Your Book Profits for Charity. Before we get to the article, let me share Barbara’s sweet book A Dog Dreams of Paris with you.


Title: A Dog Dreams of Paris: From Rescue Dog to Diva

Author: Barbara Barth

Genre: Gift Book/Children

Publisher: Gilbert Street Press

Publication Date: May 5, 2015

Paperback: 52 pages (also available as ebook)

Synopsis: Meet April, a rescue dog turned Diva, in this charming picture book for dreamers of all ages. This fantasy dog memoir is April’s travel diary on places she would visit in Paris. April was the sixth dog adopted by author Barbara Barth. She had trouble finding her place in the pack and sat quietly watching the other dogs. During a photo shoot for an Easter blog post, a vintage pink hat, complete with a large silk rose, was placed on April’s head. She wore the hat with style and transformed from April to Miss April in Paris. For a few months she had a blog of her own, where she dreamed of visiting the city of lights. April has completed her Paris diary and is sharing it with you here.

Earmarking a Portion of Your Book Profits for Charity

by Barbara Barth

I love the idea that a book will bring pleasure to the person reading it and help a great cause with its sales. The two together are a win-win situation. I am not a professional fundraiser, but like to feel my sales can help my favorite charities. In my case, mostly animal rescue groups, since I live with six dogs from my local shelters. To be honest, I confuse myself with some of my ideas, because I wing it many times. There are no set guidelines; I just do what pops into my head at any given moment. I will share the three experiences I’ve had and the great outcomes from all three.

The book that started it all for me (my calling myself a writer) was my memoir on my first year as a widow. The Unfaithful Widow, published in 2010, was a series of essays over a year on finding a life of my own again. Dogs played a huge role in my healing process. I adopted five dogs in nine months, giving me six dogs at home, with my old dog Foxy. My book launch was at a friend’s huge Victorian bed and breakfast, complete with a silent auction to benefit the agency that brought me most of my dogs, Animal Action Rescue. The evening was a gala for me and for the rescue group. I planned on keeping the wholesale cost of each book I sold and then donating the profit to the group. The first person who bought my book wanted to write a check. “Who should I make the check out to?” A simple question, but it kick started a thought in my mind. I didn’t want to figure out the profit at the end of the evening. Right there I decided to donate the entire price of my book to my rescue group. I gave the woman the animal rescue groups name for her check (which also allowed her to claim a charitable deduction) and to my surprise, she wrote a check for twenty dollars for my $15.95 book. The rest of the evening went like that. As soon as I told a customer all the money went to the rescue group, they paid more for my book, both in cash and check. One woman, who was a huge dog lover, wrote a check for $100. I was amazed at the generosity of people when it came to donating to a cause, rather than just buying a book. The evening was magical.

In December 2014, I published a Christmas anthology that include stories from thirty authors. Originally, it was going to be a free e-book on Kindle. The perk for the authors, they had their bio and web links at the end of their piece. Again, things did not go as planned. The book had to have a price to be uploaded to Kindle, and then I could put it in KDP select for a short free promotion. I didn’t want to profit from the work of my fellow authors, and if we had sales, the money needed to go to a charity. A quick e-mail to everyone took care of that. We would donate any sales to a children’s literacy group. I chose First Book, a group that provides access to new books for children in need. I contacted their home office; wanting to be sure it was okay for me to link back to them in the e-book. The bottom line, I explained to them, we may not have many sales, but with thirty authors involved, First Book would receive additional press and let others know of their work. First Book is a huge charity, but you can never have too much great PR. The sales for our e-book were not great, but the response from the authors who were in the book was awesome. Some donated directly to First Book, and I donated the sales and a contribution of my own. Disney matched all donations made by December 31st by tripling the number of books donated to children. We met that deadline, so our small amount of sales plus personal donations escalated thanks to Disney’s generosity and that of our group. 

A Dog Dreams of Paris is my dream of the perfect book to help raise money for animal groups. I am still working on a plan for it. The book had a quiet launch with all profits in May going to Friends of DeKalb Animals, again a group close to my heart. Immediately after the book was available for sale I went into the hospital for hip replacement surgery. I have not had a chance to get the book out for book signings or to local shops. That is next month’s goal after my physical therapy is completed and I am mobile again. The picture book is based on Miss April in Paris, the last rescue dog to come to me at the beginning of 2011. It is her story on finding her way in the pack. I donated books to the group that brought me April, Atlanta Canine Adoption Project as a thank you for my lovely dog. In addition, it states in the book and in my promotional material, rescue groups can buy the book at my wholesale costs for fundraising.

I am sure there are professional guidelines on how to donate part of your book sales to charity, and you can Google them. I just wanted to share my experiences in this post. I have never figured out how to make money for myself with my books, but I write for the love of writing, pulling a project together, helping other authors with publicity, and finding a way to give to the folks who give to others of their time and energy. It isn’t about the money; it is about doing what feels right.

Barbara Barth with a few of her dogs.

About Barbara Barth:

Barbara Barth likes a lot of things: turquoise jewelry, surfing the ‘net, and margaritas, to name a few. Then there are the dogs. As many as her house can hold! After her husband died she recorded the year that followed in a series of essays that became her memoir The Unfaithful Widow. When she isn’t writing you can find her at the local thrift shops or pounding another nail into the wall to hang the paintings she can’t resist. She published a romance novel Danger in her Words before one of her dogs, Miss April in Paris, insisted it was HER turn to write a memoir. Miss April in Paris now refers to Barbara as “my secretary”.

Barbara Barth’s website:

Barbara Barth’s blog:

Barbara on Facebook:

Barbara on Twitter: @writerwithdogs


Organizations referred to in the article:

First Book

Animal Action Rescue

Friends of DeKalb Animals

Atlanta Canine Adoption Project


Please visit the other stops on the tour:

Monday, June 29 @ The Muffin
interview and giveaway

Tuesday, June 30 @ Bring on Lemons

Wednesday, July 1 @ Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews

Friday, July 3 @ Deal Sharing Aunt

Monday, July 6 @ Frog on a Blog
guest post

Wednesday, July 8 @ Building Bookshelves

Thursday, July 9 @ Words by Webb

Friday, July 10 @ Oh My Dog!
interview and giveaway

Tuesday, July 14 @ Writer with Dogs
character interview

Wednesday, July 15 @ Hott Books

Thursday, July 16 @ Margo Dill
guest post

Friday, July 17 @ Renee’s Pages

Friday, July 24 @ MC Simon Writes