Please welcome multi-published children’s book author Marcia Berneger to Frog on a Blog. Marcia and I were in a critique group together once upon a time. I’m thrilled that she has a new picture book coming out this month, and I get to share it with you all right here!
As a retired elementary school teacher and now a grandmother, Marcia’s no stranger to the seemingly unending supply of energy that kids have, and her book Busy Feet captures the essence of that energy so perfectly through the activities of children’s (and a few animals’) feet, following them from home to playground to beach and back home again.
Along with Marcia’s rollicking rhyme and bold illustrations by Susanna Chapman that kids are sure to love, Busy Feet incorporates a surprise element–opposites–giving this super-fun story an extra layer of “teaching without teaching.” Marcia stopped by to share more about this engaging book.
People always ask, “Wow! Where’d you come up with that idea?” I’d love to answer that Busy Feet leapt into my head when we first found out my daughter-in-law was pregnant. Or even when Ori was born. However, truth be told, the text for Busy Feet predates Ori’s birth by five years. The very first Busy Feet manuscript was penned in July 2015. The original text for this book is almost identical to the final copy. One or two simple word substitutions and one additional verse are the only changes. But, what a difference the illustrations make. Susanna Chapman splashed bright, vivid colors onto every page. My favorite page? The very last one. The kids, and the dog, are settling down for the night and the boy is pulling the chain to shut the light—with his foot! Inspired!
So where did the idea for Busy Feet come from? I taught at the elementary level for thirty-four years. My last twenty were first and second grade. I also taught in a preschool. But, again, if I’m being truthful, I retired from public school in 2013, and didn’t start teaching the preschoolers until 2020. I did read a lot of picture books to my students throughout the years. That reading, and teaching basic concepts to young children, influenced all of my writing, helping me understand what children love about books and how best to write them.
Many of my picture book ideas are generated during what is now called Storystorm. This is Tara Lazar’s challenge to writers to think up 30 different picture book ideas during the month of January. I participated back in 2014 when it was held in November and was called Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoldMo). The idea for Busy Feet came from that list. It was a title in a list of 34 random story ideas. When I reviewed the list and saw the title, a verse just popped into my head.
Feet wake up
Time to play.
Out all day.
You’ll probably notice this is a simple rhyming verse. No learning here whatsoever. But, being the teacher that I am (or was), I couldn’t let it go at that. Could I make up verses that rhymed perfectly, that had, say…antonyms?
And there you have it—a learning book without a boring lesson. I made a long list of opposites that could be included in the book. Then I checked my rhyming dictionary to make a list of words that rhymed and would go with my opposites. (There are a tremendous number of words that rhyme! It was a very long list.) THEN, I listed all the adjectives that could describe feet and yet another list of different activities kids’ feet might do. Once I’d done all this research and list-making, putting together the verses was actually pretty easy. The final product: a simple rhyming book of fun kid activities that happens to incorporate opposites. Teaching, without teaching!
And the best part… Ori just turned two, the perfect age for Busy Feet. I was so excited when I first read it to him! It’s designed to be interactive, so his feet swung up and down, his toes wiggled, we ran fast, then slow… so much fun!!
Busy Feet scurries into the world on February 14, 2023. Here’s a new verse to herald in its book birthday:
want to play.
Just in time
For Valentine’s Day!
Marcia is generously giving away a signed copy of Busy Feet to one lucky person who comments on this blog post. Leave a comment by February 13th. I’ll choose a winner at random and connect them with Marcia. Winner must have a US mailing address. Good luck!
Marcia Berneger is an educator, speaker, and writer. She’s the author of three children’s books: a time travel chapter book, A Dreidel in Time: A New Twist on an Old Tale (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019), and two picture books, Buster: The Little Garbage Truck (Sleeping Bear Press, 2015) and Busy Feet (Starry Forest Books, 2023).
A retired elementary school teacher of over 30 years, Marcia has developed many strategies for working with children of all ages and is passionate about writing stories that help children navigate their world. She’s available to share her expertise through live or virtual presentations.
In addition, as a Jewish author, Marcia is dedicated to highlighting the importance of diversity in publishing and children seeing themselves in the pages of the books they read. She often speaks about this topic and others for kidlit publications and organizations such as the Children’s Book Academy, the California School Library Association, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and GilaGreenWrites.com.
Marcia lives in San Diego, California, with her husband. You can learn more about Marcia and her books at www.marciaberneger.com or by following her on Twitter @marciaberneger or Facebook at #marciaberneger.