The Musings, Notes & Book/App reviews of a Children's Writer

Posts tagged ‘kids books’

In The Spotlight… Author Aliona L. Gibson

I’ve recently discovered a book that brought back memories of my homeland in Jamaica, titled Justice pon di Road. It is wonderfully written with great cultural lessons and introductions for children.  Meet Aliona L. Gibson, the writer and aspiring globe trekker.

bookCover

JUSTICE PON DI ROAD Children’s picture book.

Book trailer 

Q: Hello Aliona, tell us about yourself and your career as a writer?

A: First, thanks for interviewing me and helping me spread the word about our book! I am a single mom living in Oakland, California. I took a trip to East Africa as a high school graduate many years ago and it sparked a desire to travel and see the world. A desire that I have yet to shake! After college I lived in New York where I first experienced Jamaican food. It would be many years later that I would make it to the island. I went for the first time in 2008…to Port Antonio and it was an amazing experience. I am now focused on being the best mom I can be to Justice and trying to figure out how I can write more. I published a memoir about issue of self -image and identity many years ago and a “how to” book which explained how I landed a publishing deal with no prior published writing. Justice pon di Road is my first book for children. I don’t write as much as I would like to…not enough hours in the day!

Q: Tell us about your picture book. What is your favorite feature and what would you like to convey to the reader?

A: I was inspired to write Justice pon di Road when Justice called his scrambled eggs ackee after one of our trips. I was surprised that he remembered ackee and that he made the connection! It made me think about all of our trips and how much love he got while in Jamaica. I am always so amazed at how much attention he gets from total strangers when we are in Jamaica. I didn’t expect it and it was a pleasant surprise. I had no idea how much Jamaicans love babies and kids until I went there as a mother. I love the story but my favorite feature of the book has to be the back matter. I love all the factual information about the island and the patois glossary and the list of notables. I love that the first Grandmaster of chess is in it and a Scripps National Spelling Bee champion and the youngest person to fly solo around the world. I love the photos and the way they are laid out with the text. My favorite page is the Fact About Jamaica page with the currency, Prime Minister and Reach Falls. Oh and that the cloud on the cover image is the shape of the island…my illustrators idea.

Q: What makes this picture book unique?

A: I don’t think there are many books that show a travel experience from the perspective of a child. There are so few books which feature children of color and even fewer which feature a boy as the main character, particularly an African-American boy! I would like to do another one on a different country. It’s a book about real people and the kindness of strangers. A place with a strong sense of community and where, apparently, children are held in high regard.

Q: What age range would this book appeal to?

A: I say the book is for ages three and up. I saw 3 & Up on a book we love which I thought was a pretty sophisticated book with a complex story and was sort of long so I decided to use it. It’s broad. Can be read by an older child but mostly to be read by an adult to children. The back matter makes it more appealing to older readers.

Q: What sort of feedback have you received so far?

A: So far the reviews have been great. I am always very flattered when a Jamaican likes it. That means I got it right! People love it and most of my supporters have been people who have ties to the island. The response up to now has been great.

Q: Have you considered offering ‘Justice pon di Road’ in other formats such as an app or an eBook?

A: I would LOVE to offer the book as an ebook and an app. I will…in time. I am feeling like I need to sell more books before I can take on anything else. I do want to offer both and I plan to…not sure when but it’s in the back of my mind.

Q: What has been the most difficult part of publishing a book? Promoting the book has been really hard.

A: It’s an ongoing process and in my mind, a never ending one. Getting people to do stories or review it has been a bit of a challenge. Also, I need to work on doing more book events. Direct sales have been slow. Distribution…I would like the book to be available in other cities.

Q: Once your book was published, was there any unexpected surprises during the marketing process?

A: I have people whom I sent the book to MONTHS ago who have yet to review it. That is frustrating. I have been sending reminder emails for months…sometimes they go unanswered. Even local organizations have been unresponsive. Justice’s school didn’t respond. If I were the principal of an elementary school where a parent wrote a book for children I would do everything in my power to share the book with the students and help get the word out. I think JpdR is important because I hope it encourages kids to be curious about the world we live in. What educator would not want that?

Q: Any words of advice for aspiring writers?

A: I say keep writing and reading. Do not be discouraged or let criticism and negativity stop you from telling your story. Be prepared to self-promote. Even if you go with a traditional publisher you have to go above and beyond to get the word out about your book. There are lots and lots of books on the market and getting the word out is probably more involved than actually writing the book. Take the job of promoting and marketing seriously and be creative in ways to get the word out. I left book marks for our book at pediatric clinic waiting rooms and pediatric dental offices. Know your target audience and figure out creative ways to reach them. But more importantly write, write, write, and write some more to develop your craft (I am talking to myself on this one!) I need to research writing workshops and groups to join to help.

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

A: I used Kickstarter to raise the money to print the book. I was reluctant but SO happy I did it. I raised over 8K in thirty days. Use crowd funding to support your projects! I didn’t think I could do it! Kickstarter is only one, Indigogo and Go Fund Me… and there are many others.

Aliona L. Gibson

Aliona L. Gibson

 

View the Book trailer 

Connect with Aliona L. Gibson and learn more about her books @ website

Social Media links:

Facebook

Twitter: @AlionaGibson

 

 

In the spotlight! Author Alexis Purcell

In the spotlight this month is Author Alexis Purcell.

cd9d1ad84d5a57c5b34eaa365e22f4bb_otfm_1d3aAlexis’s success is an inspiration to indie authors and book app developers everywhere and we are thrilled for her.

This Thanksgiving, Alexis will have a lot to be thankful for.  All her hard work and perseverance is paying off.

The book app community  and the Book App Alliance will be joining her on an App-Watch of The Turkey Who Forgot to Gobble’s meteoric rise up the iTunes paid book apps chart. If you’ve read this story you’ll agree that this couldn’t be happening to a nicer Turkey.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 7.54.46 PMWhen called upon, Alexis was happy to share a little about her journey as a writer and app developer.

In Alexis’s words:  I began the journey of creating children’s book apps in 2012.  It was just me, lots of research on the computer, and my new found friend at the time, Karen Robertson.  With Karen’s occasional guidance and her reference books as my guide, I guess you can say “the rest is history”.  (Reference books: “The Top 5 Things You MUST Know about Creating Book Apps for Kids!”, “How to Market a Book App”, and “7 Secrets of Book App Marketing.

So, fast forward to today: Have you ever had a day where you are reassured that pursuing your dream was the right choice? Today was that day for me when I saw that my app of “The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble” was ranked #3 in the Apple iTunes paid book apps and has consistently remained in the top 10 in November.  This is more than I ever would have imagined as I am not part of a company with deep pockets yet I find myself up there with the big guys like Dora and Disney….who knew??

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Dreams do come true!  I feel very blessed and am grateful for the opportunity to bring joy to children, and to those who are young at heart.

Alexis Purcell – Award winning author of:

The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble,

Twinkle Twinkle Nighty Night, and

Twinkle Twinkle Hear My Prayers (early 2014)

website: http://www.TwinkleTwinkleBooks.com

Link to the app store for The Turkey Who Forgot How To Gobble

 

Aside

October’s Picture book of the Month

october_breast_cancer_month_flyer-r7f4e4afc60784273aa0410a4b9688885_vgvyf_8byvr_512October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and most of us know someone who’s been affected by this disease.  It impacts the entire family as many of the women battling this disease also have children who are  coping and fighting alongside them.

The Goodbye Cancer Garden by Janna Matthies and illustrated by Kristi Valiant brooches this subject that is often difficult to discuss with young children.

 

 

cancer garden front

This picture book is sensitively and lovingly written by an Author who is also a cancer survivor.

The beautiful illustrations shines a light and an air of positivity that  is uplifting in what could have been a sad book.

“Things don’t always go as expected” is the theme throughout the story. It walks us through the announcement of a mother with cancer, the stages of her treatment, the emotions involved and the way in which her family handles it.

As an avid gardener, I loved the co-relation between the various stages of cancer and the seasons of their garden. This book is more realistic and uplifting than sad, it’s about a family doing something positive together while in the midst of a tough situation.

Reading this will help children understand more about cancer but can also help children of families facing other devastating illnesses as well. I was cheering the family on from start to finish, and without giving it away I can say that I was thrilled to discover that there was indeed a happy ending.

cancer garden back

 Summary 

One winter day, Mom and Dad tell Janie and Jeffrey that Mom has cancer. Soon the whole family goes to the doctor to ask questions.

“Is Mom better yet?” Jeffrey asks.”Not yet,” the doctor says. “Not yet,” the doctor says, “But we’re working very hard to make her better – probably by pumpkin time.”

That gives Janie an idea: to plant a vegetable garden.

As the garden grows, Moms treatment progresses, and when it’s all done, there are healthy pumpkins and a recovering mom!

In the Spotlight! illustrator Victor Guiza

The first time that I discovered Victor Guiza’s illustrations online, I immediately realized that I’d seen his work before. Vic had illustrated one of my son’s favorite book apps called Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island . I loved his style of illustrations and knew that I wanted to work with him. vic

 

Vic’s creativity has no boundaries and he’s very intuitive in merging the Authors vision with the project’s needs. As an artist myself I knew exactly how I wanted the artwork to look but I also knew when it was time to step out-of-the-way and let him create his magic. The way the Monster Jam monster characters were brought to life went way beyond my expectations.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Vic and he had lots of wonderful nuggets to impart about his interesting and successful career.

Have you always known that you wanted to be an illustrator? When did you realize that this was your true calling.

When I was about 10 years old, I had a neighbor who was a professional comic book illustrator. I was a creative child and had always enjoyed drawing, but my childhood dream was to become a pilot. I had never been very good with math and math is key with that profession.  One day my neighbor asked me if I wanted to be a professional illustrator. If so , I would have to study and practice daily.  He challenged me, and when I discovered the many exciting things I could create, I decided that I wanted to be a comic book artist instead of a pilot.

What types of art or artists inspired you along the way?

Music is a great source of inspiration, as well as movies and architecture. I really enjoy sound tracks. I admire comic book artists like Moebius from France, Katsuhiro Otomo from Japan, Oscar Martin from Spain and Humberto Ramos from Mexico among many others. I also love hyper realistic paint from Benjamin Orozco, and Alex Ross.

You have an amazing body of work, what type of projects have you had the most fun with? 

Children books, definitely! So far the stories are pure magic and so challenging. In a comic book you have at least 22 pages and about 5 panels in each page to tell a story, in Children books you have only 10 to 15 illustrations to narrate the same story.

Do you approach illustrating a comic differently than a picture book?

Absolutely! comic storytelling have to follow a “movie like” direction and perspective while picture books are more singular in which action is the climax of the text from each page.

Where you get your ideas or inspiration?

I look at other artist works as inspiration, I see fun in life daily, I dream a lot, but my true inspiration comes directly from the source. My inner source.

Vic Guiza iLLustrator Vic at work creating a picture book character

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwtkgvLa_fU

Contact: Vic Guiza at www.vicguiza.com

vic example

A visit with the Author Jonathan Ayre

Welcome to the first of the Interview Series where I’ll be picking the brains of some of the most creative people in the KidLit world.

I’ve recently discovered the Hatty the Tiger brand which has two amazing picture books and a book app. The stories are beautifully told with great messages such as good eating habits, strength of character and being different.

I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to chat with Jonathan Ayre.  Jonathan is the writer, illustrator and creator of this unique brand. The theme song “The Hatty Rap” is catchy and my son and  I absolutely love it. I’m sure your kids will love to see the  Hatty Rap video.

THE TIGER WHO WASN'T! COVER

HATTY & THE HARD BEANS! coverThe Tiger That Wasn't

App Store link   Android version on GOOGLE Play

Here’s what Jonathan had to share…..

Q: Tell us about yourself and the Hatty brand?

Jonathan: I’ve been a writer for most of my life through short stories, songs, screenplays and magazine articles, and my books about Hatty the tiger, grew out of stories I made up for my own young children. They’re six years-old now, and although as a family we are not vegetarians, they’ve grown up enjoying lots of different fruits and vegetables and I realize how lucky we are with this. Hatty became a vegetarian tiger because  in a world where ‘junk food’ is advertised so much, I hoped that if my children knew why fruit and veg were ‘cool’ and good to eat, it would help them to make better choices on their own. Being vegetarian, was also a way to make Hatty a more gentle tiger and take him away from the usually ferocious stereotype. Among a feast of wonderful books that are out there, I like to believe the Hatty stories have helped my own children to think ‘outside the (junk) box’!.

Q: What makes this brand unique?

Jonathan: Well, because Hatty is a vegetarian tiger it throws up a lot of other issues apart from just diet. There’s peer-pressure, fear and isolation involved, as well as important character issues like conviction, persistence, kindness and individuality. Hatty is not a ‘goody-goody’, and his behavior and ideas aren’t always the best, but he tries hard and has a lot of fun on the way to learning his lessons, and I’d say that this is the essence of the ‘brand’: A fun and unexpected way of educating children about  issues of diet, cooking and character.

Q: What age range would this brand appeal to?

Jonathan: 3-8 years-old would be the main age group to read the Hatty books, ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ and the sequel, ‘Hatty And The Hard Beans!’ Though I teach children up to 14 in writing and illustration workshops based on the books, I always read the books to the younger ones. Having said that, everyone likes to be read to, and because the books are written in fun, rhyming couplets, I often get requests on school visits to read to classes up to 10 years old.

Q: What sort of feedback have you received so far?

Jonathan: Quite honestly, the reviews for both books have been terrific – and the app which has only been out for a few weeks is just now starting to receive reviews. The direct feedback I get from parents and teachers on my school tours has been really positive and I get lots of letters from the children after my visits, with ideas for new Hatty adventures  or telling me their favorite parts of the books. Hatty really seems to resonate with many of them and I feel inspired by the discussions and the issues his character raises.

Q: What lead to the decision to create “The Tiger Who Wasn’t” into an app as opposed to an eBook? 

Jonathan: Actually, I did make an eBook of, ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ while I was making the app. The whole business is so relatively new that I wanted to see how each part works and the eBook was a small expense since I did the work myself. However, making an app is THE way to go – and I was never in any doubt that I would do it. From the first time I saw my children ‘playing’ with a book app and enjoying the feedback and interaction (with a great story of course) I realized that the future of electronic picture books would never be a straightforward eBook..

Q: Tell us about your app!  What is your favorite feature and what would you like to convey to the end-user? 

Jonathan: It was a lot of fun making the story come to life – literally – with tap animations, original music and sound fx. I’ve seen a lot of storybook apps where I’ve been impressed with the technical side of their presentation, but the essence of them, a good story, has been lost in a lot of bells and whistles. I would like to think that the solid heart of ‘The Tiger Who Wasn’t!’ is a really fun and touching story that young children can actively get involved with and learn from. It still makes me smile to see the joy and laughter that children get when they make the animals move or the skunk fart!! Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great games and activities included with the app also, like the Coloring Pages, Hatty’s Hide & Seek’, or ‘Hatty’s Avocado Roll (all 20 skill levels of it), but I like to think that these are unexpected and enjoyable features that complement the story. For me, the story remains the star part of the app and includes 3 different  ‘reading’ versions and text highlighting, together with the original music and fx.

Q: What’s been the most difficult part of creating an app? 

Jonathan: Raising the money to make it, was pretty tough! Thankfully, the books were very well received by the local school in Cyprus where I live, and having written, illustrated and published them myself, the children, teachers and parents here were fantastic. I had many sales through recommendations and word of mouth and, Ruth, the owner of a local bookstore, ‘The Moufflon Bookshop’, was incredibly helpful and supportive in helping me get the word out across the island. Apart from that, having raised the money, it was a question of how to get the most value for the consumer out of the ideas we had. The developers I finally chose, Dragonpencil of Savannah, Georgia, were brilliant here; guiding me through the process with their expertise and experience, and opening my eyes to new possibilities.

Q: Now that your app is published, were there any unexpected surprises during the process? 

Jonathan: It took 6 months to make the app from the day I signed my contract with Dragonpencil, the developers. There were many surprises which came from going through that process of drawing, animating, making the sound fx and seeing it all come to life. During the process I was wracking my brains as to how I would publicize it, and probably the biggest surprise is that this turned out to be a music video, ‘The Hatty Rap!’ The first person I sent this to, having posted it on my website and YouTube, was Karen Robertson(The Empress of App!). Her positive and immediate response was a big and wonderful surprise. Feedback from those who have earned your respect is a great feeling.

Q: Any words of advice for other writers who are thinking about creating apps? 

Jonathan: Trust your dreams, buy an iPad, research as much as possible before you start – and NEVER underestimate the intelligence of children! Apart from that, it’s vital you choose your developer carefully: A good one will help you realize your dream, while a bad one will cramp it or kill it. Generally – to be happy – work for the heights, but expect the lows! That way you’ll always be pleasantly surprised and never disappointed

Q: Between the book & the book app? Which has had better sales results & is that what you expected. 

Jonathan: The app has only just come out and is doing well so far, whereas my books have been out for a year. Apart from selling the books on Amazon etc, I also offer personally signed copies with free worldwide mailing direct from my website. It’s all PayPal, so customers know they are protected and they seem to like the signed copies. It’s more time investment for me and expense with mailing and packing, but in the end the revenue is the same for me as selling on Amazon, and it’s a more personal touch for customers. Dollar-wise my book revenue is still ahead because the app is brand new, but because sales are totally dependent on marketing and lucky breaks, every single sale  – whether it be a book or an app – means that someone else is enjoying my work and there’s no dollar figure for that feeling!

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

Jonathan: Have fun. Making an app is a journey and giving it a deadline can be your best friend. It can rarely be perfect in your eyes, because you’re learning all the time. The important thing is to enjoy the process and give as much as you can. The smile on a child’s face when they first get their hands on your app is a thrill that never fades!

The Tiger That Wasn't

App: The Tiger Who Wasn’t

App Store link

Android version on GOOGLE Play

Music video (Gotta watch!)http://youtu.be/cgUOiJO5ywU

Hatty Books

website: www.hattybooks.com

Social Media links: FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hatty-the-Tiger/216463078458985

Monster Jam children’s app – All about the art

I’ve dotted all the i’s & crossed all the T’s, the stage is set and every things in place. It’s been a wild ride writing & creating the Monster Jam book app with very few hiccups along the way.

ImageOnce the story was written & edited then the real adventure began. It was amazing watching the Monster characters come alive as my super illustrator worked his magic.

Linking the right illustrator with the right project is key to a successful partnership. The wrong fit can quickly turn the dream into a nightmare, believe me…I know. As an artist I seen both sides of the coin. Being on the same page as the illustrator is key, so is giving him as much clear information as possible and  allowing creative license to do what he does best. Keeping the lines of communication open and having an open mind made the process a smooth, exciting and successful collaboration.

ImageThe recipe: No egos, impatience or head butting, add in a creativity, lots of imagination, plenty of healthy idea exchange & flexibility =’s very few edits & beautiful illustrations!

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Here’s a video of the award winning illustrator Vic Guiza drawing the lead character axe, he makes it look so easy.  Click here -> Creating a Mon-Star.Monster Jam by Blue Sandpiper Imprints is available on iPad & Android 

 

 

 

Link

The little App that Could

Great article on GGE e-book App

Great article on GGE e-book App

Article on Grendel's Great Escape book App

” With the swipe of a  finger, children can bring characters to life in this interactive storybook App Grendel’s Great Escape”

Dallas Child Magazine has noticed and is spreading the news about the little App that could. Written & Developed by a Mom at Blue Sandpiper Imprints to encourage children to read in this digital age, where kids gravitate to electronics and picking up  a book is often forgotten. Grendel’s Great Escape makes reading fun, it’s full of interaction, animation and engaging music – download to iPad

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/grendels-great-escape/id585972636?ls=1&mt=8

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