“Finding the Funny” by Jennifer Buchet + PB Critique Giveaway!

I’m thrilled to feature children’s book author Jennifer Buchet on Frog on a Blog today! Her book Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma is just so clever and is gorgeously illustrated by Cassie Chancy. When I spoke with Jennifer about writing a guest post, she suggested sharing how she was able to turn a notorious villain into a funny character, and I absolutely loved that idea. If you’re a picture book writer, you’re sure to find her story illuminating. Be sure to read to the end for information about winning a picture book manuscript or query critique. Take it away, Jennifer!

When I drafted my first picture book, Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, I faced a huge challenge, Not just acing the pacing, not just perfecting the word count, but how do I NOT scare away my audience when writing about one of the most famous villains in history!

The answer: I try to make them laugh!

Let’s face it. Kids dig humor. Adults dig humor, too! People love to laugh and bonus, it’s good for you!

When it comes to writing picture books, humor can be a key element both for your intended audience (the littles) and their readers (the adults—after all, you want them to enjoy reading your book again and again and again!) And when kids laugh, we all laugh!

The original Medusa is known for being a hideous, horrendous villain, turning everyone to stone. I wanted my readers to laugh, not exactly cry with each page turn! So I had to turn my story ideas around and look at different angles and possibilities.

Right away I decided to make my main character, Little Medusa, a descendant of the original mythological meanie. This allowed me a lot more wriggle—and giggle—room.

Since I’m not a natural at writing humor, I read a lot of humorous mentor texts. I also researched how to craft funny kidlit. There are so many varieties of funny, it’s like trying to choose one flavor of ice cream out of forty drool-worthy flavors! There’s fun with fear, gross funny, sarcasm and wit, visual humor, parodies, and etc. But which way was right for me?

I also had to choose what role humor would play in my story. A well-timed laugh? An insightful character glimpse? Moving the arc forward? I wanted my audience to root for Little Medusa, to laugh with her, not always at her.

So I placed her in situations that not only revealed humorous physical challenges (the outer loop of the story), but also situations that exposed emotional conflicts (the inner tale).

The result of all this hard work? I gave Little Medusa a massive pythonic problem! A Gorgon girl who loves snakes, but can’t stand having them slither through her hair. Once she receives her very first serpentine friend, she begins questioning if she really wants to turn people to stone with a stare! Using her imagination, heart and smarts, Little Medusa does her very best to please her family, her snake and herself.

Bringing humor into your writing isn’t always easy, nor is it always fun at first! It’s actually a lot of hard work. But if you do your research and try different styles, you just may find that perfect punchline!

Awesome! Thanks so much, Jennifer! Folks, if you haven’t yet read Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, I encourage you to look for it. You won’t be disappointed.

Giveaway Alert!

Jennifer is kindly offering a free picture book manuscript critique up to 600 words (non-rhyming) or a query critique. To be eligible to win, please comment below, and share this blog on social media, tagging both Jennifer and myself, to earn extra chances. I will choose a winner at random on July 31. Good luck!

Jennifer Buchet is an award-winning author and pre-kindergarten educator. She is a feature contributor for Faces magazine while also creating new picture books and chapter books.

An easy way to support an author is to leave Book Reviews and ask your Local Library to carry their books! Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma is available for purchase at: Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

You can swap tales and puns with Jennifer here:

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 www.leah-gilbert.com!


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: http://www.leah-gilbert.com/