Interview Alert: Danielle Dufayet (+ a Book Birthday Celebration Giveaway!)

It is a huge pleasure to welcome picture book author Danielle Dufayet to Frog on a Blog. Danielle is the author of three gorgeous picture books, two published last year and one officially out today via Albert Whitman & Company publishers! Happy Book Birthday to Waiting Together!

As Danielle’s books are some of my recent favorites, I jumped at the chance to learn more about her through an interview.

What inspired you to write your brand-new picture book Waiting Together?

Danielle: Deborah Underwood, The Quiet Book. It was so interesting and fun to read about all the different ways a kid experiences silence throughout the day. It made me ask: what else do kids (universally) experience throughout the day? The answer was “waiting”. For kids, being quiet is not always easy -neither is being patient.

Do you, as an English and a Public Speaking teacher, feel that teaching informs or affects your writing in any way?

Danielle: Actually, it’s the other way around. I found that I enjoy writing books that help kids feel self-empowered. From that, I designed my own public speaking course which focuses on leadership and self-empowerment. I like to emphasize self-love and positive self-talk. Those themes come out whenever I am teaching kids, if I have the opportunity.

You have two other gorgeous picture books already out in the world. For those who may not be familiar, please tell us a little about You Are Your Strong and Fantastic You.

Danielle: You Are Your Strong is about using our own resources for handling our difficult emotions (sadness, anger, worry and fear) with breath, positive thinking, self-distraction, etc. Fantastic You is all about self-love and self-compassion and forgiveness. In essence, it’s about how to treat ourselves as if we were our own best friend.

Just like your other books, Waiting Together has an eye-catching cover! How excited were you to see it for the first time?

Danielle: I was so excited! I loved that it was of a boy and his dog -which circles back to the end of the book. I love my illustrator’s work, especially her children -such sweet faces! I am very lucky to have Srimalie Bassani as my illustrator.

You’re also an artist, and I’ve seen some of your amazing art on your website. Do you hope to one day illustrate picture books, either your own or other’s?

Danielle: Thank you for your kind words! I love to paint big, colorful paintings that uplift the viewer. I enjoy expressing love and light and joy in my work and hopefully that’s what it brings to the walls. Illustrating books and painting large works are two very different types of art, but, yes, one day I may be inspired to illustrate my own book. After all, I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was young.

Your books are uplifting and encouraging, perfect to share with the children we love anytime, but maybe even more so during difficult times. Do you have any advice for kids or adults who may be struggling right now?

Danielle: My advice is to take one day at a time and to NOT be so hard on yourself. Do the best you can. Make time for self-care. Do things that bring you joy, always get a good dose of sunshine, fresh air and physical activity, watch your thoughts, for they become “things”. Practice being loving and gentle and kind to yourself and everyone.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your books, or to connect with you online?

www.danielledufayetbooks.com

Danielle Dufayet, born in Yonkers, New York, now lives in sunny San Jose, California, where she writes children’s books and paints. She also teaches English and Public Speaking (Self-Empowerment) to grades K-12.

Danielle read her first picture book (Little Raccoon and the Thing in the Pool) when she was 18 whereupon she was blown away by its simplicity, timelessness and transformative power. That’s when she knew it was her calling.

Thirty five years and a Master’s Degree later, she finally made her dream come true with TWO books out in 2019 – one about inner strength and the other about self-love/compassion, and a third book, Waiting Together, September 1, 2020.

Hooray for a GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate its Book Birthday, Danielle is giving away a copy of her brand new picture book Waiting Together to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment on this post by September 15 to be entered to win. The winner will be chosen at random and notified via email. Giveaway available to U.S. residents only.

Interview Alert: Leah Gilbert

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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!

Studio

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/

Interview Alert: Katey Howes

I am so excited to share this interview with fellow Ripple Grove Press children’s author Katey Howes! Katey’s debut picture book Grandmother Thorn released this past summer and has received many wonderful reviews. I don’t remember where in the kidlitosphere Katey and I first met, but I do remember sending her a message and spellcheck changing her name to matey. I’d like to think we’ve been kidlit “mates” ever since. 🙂 Let’s learn more about Katey Howes!

How long have you been writing with the goal of being published?

IKathrynHeadshots-40 (2) decided in early 2014 to take my writing seriously, and to take the steps necessary to learn about the publishing industry, to improve my craft, and to actively pursue publication. I also started a blog that January, to give myself a way to connect with other writers and to hold myself accountable for producing and “publishing” written words every week. Looking back, I am overwhelmed by how far I’ve come. Here’s an excerpt from one of my first blog posts on January 14, 2014, entitled “Can I call it an author page?”

I’ve imagined myself a writer so long, it’s surprising to me that I have no real idea how to go about becoming one. Can I just put “author” down as my occupation and start counting endless hours of staring into space as work time? Are all those cups of coffee and bookstore bargains now business expenses? And exactly how guilty should I feel when I get caught up in a chapter and don’t fold the laundry?

Three years later, I’d answer those questions: yes, yes, and not one bit!

What was the inspiration behind Grandmother Thorn?

I had several berry bushes in my backyard, in a garden bed where nothing else seemed to want to grow. The berries must have loved it, though, because they grew out of control!! I spent hours chopping them back, wrapping vines around trellises, and eventually hammering 10-foot lengths of rebar into the ground to support the trellises! One day, as the unruly raspberry bush gave me one too many thorny scrapes, I yelled at it, “sooner or later, everything meets its match!” And then I stood silently, wondering whether that advice was for the bush, or for me. I knew then and there that I needed to write Grandmother Thorn

blackberry bush

How did you hear about Ripple Grove Press and why did you decide to submit Grandmother Thorn to them?

Through SCBWI and the KidLit411 website, I found listings of publishers that accepted unagented submissions. I went to my local library and requested recent books from those publishers, trying to get a sense of what they made and how their books resonated with me. I was blown away by the beauty and timelessness of the Ripple Grove Press titles. I wanted those qualities for my book. 

Grandmother Thorn Cover hi res

How did you feel upon seeing the finished book for the first time?

What a wonderful day that was! My daughters were home with me when the box of books arrived, and we all opened it together. My heart was pounding, I was so excited! As soon as the box was opened, my girls each took a copy and curled up to read it. I held my copy reverently, examining all the beautiful details – from the surprise on the case cover to the thick, heavy feel of the paper. It was truly a dream come true!

What is your favorite thing about picture books?

That’s a tough question! I suppose if I have to choose one thing, it’s their versatility. Picture books can do and be so many things for so many people. They bring art to story and story to life. They invite the engaged reader to slow down and search for hidden details, or allow the reluctant reader to skim through quickly and confidently.  They open the door to big conversations, or wordlessly introduce new worlds. It’s a kind of magic, the things that picture books can do.  

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring picture book authors?

It’s been said before – but I’ll say it again: READ! A great composer listens to and plays and studies thousands of compositions before writing her own – authors need to do the same. There are times when I take a brief break from reading picture books because I can feel other authors influencing my writing too heavily, but in general, I read at least two a day, sometimes as many as ten.   

Where can fans connect with you online?

I love to connect on Twitter as @kateywrites, and on Instagram @kidlitlove. You can also follow my author page on Facebook. Check out my website, www.kateyhowes.com, for more about me and my books. I’m no longer very active on my blog, but there are several years of posts about raising kids who love to read and about my journey to published author. You can find a link on my website, search #RaisingReaders, or go directly to www.kateywrites.wordpress.comI’m also a team member at the fabulous children’s book website, All the Wonders, where we find new and wondrous ways to connect readers to books they will love.

magnolia mudd cover art

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your book, or picture books in general? What’s next for Katey Howes?

There are more picture books on my horizon – MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE comes out January 2nd from Sterling Children’s Books and is available for pre-order now.  I’m very excited to be launching (pardon the pun) a book about such an innovative girl, as I’m passionate about helping girls see themselves as inventors, scientists and leaders. In fact, I’ll be presenting a session on using picture books to support STEM/STEAM curriculum at nErDcamp NJ in April. I hope to see many of your readers there! 

Thank you so much, Katey, for sharing more about yourself with my blog readers! I love the berry bush story! It proves that inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere! 🙂

And congratulations on your forthcoming Magnolia Mudd And The Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe! I can’t wait to read it!

Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones Blog Tour

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I’m pleased to report that Frog on a Blog has been invited to take part in a blog tour for Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones. Here’s more information about the book and the tour:

To celebrate the release of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones, written by Ted Enik and illustrated by G.F. Newland, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content about this humorous tall tale and giving away chances to win a copy of Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones.

This first book in Ted Enik and G.F Newland’s “Unhinged History” series is a ripping yarn – full of adventure and deceit – that brings to life the best-known public spat in all of paleontology: the bitter rivalry between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh that became known as “The Bone Wars.” Lively and witty rhymes plus beautifully demented illustrations by Newland reveal how the paleontologists’ infamous rivalry began and how their mutual obsession with outdoing and ruining one another spun out of control.

Schedule of Blog Tour

November 6: Can You Read Me a Story?

November 7: A Fuse #8 Production

November 8: Books My Kids Read

November 9: Rockin’ Book Reviews

November 10: Kid Lit 411

November 11: Shelf Employed

November 12: Frog on a Blog

Sticks n stones blog tour authors

About the Author

Ted Enik has worked as an illustrator for most of the well-known New York publishing houses, applying his versatility to both original art as well as classic and current children’s book characters, including the Magic School Bus, the Eloise books, and the popular “Fancy Nancy I Can Read” series. This is the first picture book Ted has authored. It was first published in 2013 by Pixel Mouse House, New York, and honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest’s 2014 Best Children’s Nonfiction and a Finalist in American Book Fest’s 2014 International Book Award for Best Children’s Nonfiction. Learn more about his books and his illustration at tedenik.com.

About the Illustrator

G.F. Newland is a part-time illustrator and the systems administrator at the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY. His doodles have found their way onto buttons, bags, posters, and T-shirts, and have been published by Scholastic, Hachette, and Pixel Mouse House. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and a pet fish named Enki. Visit his website at gfnewland.com.


Stop back on November 12 to read an interview with Pete Schiffer, the publisher at Schiffer Publishing, and Tracee Groff, the head of Schiffer Kids. They’ll be discussing how Sticks ‘N Stones ‘N Dinosaur Bones fits into their fall lineup.

And don’t forget to visit all of the blogs on the tour!