WRITERLY WISDOM: Vivian Kirkfield





Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week’s post is from my good friend and children’s author, Vivian Kirkfield, as she talks about points of view…



Picture Books: A Child’s POV

By Vivian Kirkfield



“Read me one more story, please?”

Just about every parent has heard this plaintive cry. Young children love to listen to picture book stories. They enjoy cuddling close to daddy on a comfy couch or leaning back on mommy’s lap as they help to turn the dog-eared pages of a beloved book.


Why should we read picture books to young children?


  •         We read with them for entertainment and enjoyment. Their messages can help young children deal with many of the challenges they encounter. Reading with young children engages them in the world between the pages. Children are able to relate the events in the book to their own experiences. Studies show that children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.


Which books should a parent read? A parent can:


  •        Consult children’s librarians
  •        Check out reviews on Amazon and other book review sites
  •       Ask for recommendations from teachers and friends
  •       Encourage the child to make some choices.


What makes great picture book? Whether it is a quiet bedtime book or a rollicking pirate adventure…a great picture book should have:


  •        Captivating illustrations
  •        Simple text
  •        Story that a child can relate to
  •        Emotional response

As picture book writers, we need to keep those four factors in mind. But picture books are not the only types of books for young kids. Here is a list of the different types of book formats and what you can expect to find in each.

  •       Board books – for infants to toddlers, hard board pages usually plasticized for sturdiness, simple pictures, minimal text, these days many popular picture books have been redone as board books, but they used to be mostly concept books (numbers, colors, ABC’s).
  •        Picture books – for preschoolers to 4th grade…although ages 3-5 is considered the ‘sweet spot’, designed to be read to/with the child, 32 pages, balance between text and pictures, but recently more pictures than text,1000 word max…but recently 500 words or less are preferred, art tells much of the story, child or child-like hero is at center of story, fiction or non-fiction or concept book, example: Where The Wild Things Are.
  •        Easy-reader or level reader – 6-8 year old, illustrations on every page, usually broken into chapters, shorter sentences and repetition, 2-5 sentences per page, aim is for the child to read it himself, example: Amelia Bedelia
  •        Early Chapter Books – 7-11 year old, 45-60 pages, broken into chapters, each chapter is broken into 3-4 pages, illustrations are small, usually black and white and only on every few pages, 2-4 sentences per paragraph, each chapter ends so they want to turn the page, example: Ramona.
  •        Middle Grade Novels (MG) – 8-12 year old, 100-150 pages, minimal illustrations, invites the child to bring his own imagination to the story, example: series books such as Chronicles of Narnia.
  •       Young Adult Novels (YA) – 12 years old and up, 100-400 pages, complex plots, themes relevant to problems of teenagers today, sophisticated topics, mature vocabulary, example: Twilight Series, Hunger Games.

As writers of children’s books, it will be helpful to remember these parameters.

I think that writing for children is the best job in the world! As Jorge Luis Borges said, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” We hold in our hands the ability to create beautiful stories that will entertain, educate and elevate the young children of tomorrow.


Vivian Kirkfield is a mom, an educator and an author who is passionate about picture books, enjoys hiking and fly-fishing with her husband, loves reading, crafting and cooking with kids during school and library programs and shares tips and tactics for building self-esteem and literacy in her parenting workshops. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a reader and a lover of books.


PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE (Holiday House, February 12, 2019) illus by Jill Weber

FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (PomegranateKids, March 15, 2019) illus by Mirka Hokkanen

SWEET DREAMS, SARAH (Creston Books, May 1, 2019) illus by Chris Ewald


FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020) illus by Gilbert Ford





Title: Deep in the Swamp

Author: Donna M Bateman

Illustrator: Brian Lies

Ages: 4-8



“Deep in the swamp, in the warm morning sun,

Lived a mother river otter and her little pup One.

“Splash!” said the mother, “I splash,” said the One.

So they splashed and they played in the warm morning sun.”


Why you should read it:


I have read many versions of this type of story but, being Cajun, of course, the fact Ms. Bateman’s putting a twist on a bayou tale captures my interest right away. Illustrator Brian Lies brings the creatures of the swamp to life while incorporating vibrant detail of the flora found in southern Louisiana. If you’ve read a lot of variations to this original story you might not want to read another one. But if you are new to this basic tale or just love reading about life on the bayou, you will want to add this book to your collection.


Like-o-meter Rating scale**: 4 out of 5…think about it.




**Rating scale**


 5 out of 5…grab it!


 4 out of 5…think about it.


 3 out of 5…take or leave it.


 2 out of 5…maybe not for you.


 1 out of 5…forget about it!


BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Jennifer Hamburg



Title: A Moose That Says Moooooooooo!
Author: Jennifer Hamburg
Illustrator: Sue Truesdell
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Ages: 4 to 8




Everything starts out fine in the imagination of one young girl when she decides to create her own zoo with a moose that can moo and book reading sharks. But soon things get out of hand as everything from zoo pillow fights to an all-duck jazz band creates havoc in the afternoon. How will she corral those crazy critters and restore order once more to her back yard?


Why you should read it:


The illustrations of this book kind of remind me of Shel Silverstein’s lovely drawings in THE GIVING TREE. With an ox as a short-order cook and skunks jumping rope, who WOULDN’T want to check out this zany zoo? I enjoyed turning the pages to discover the next what-if in this adorable tale of one girl’s imagination gone wild on a lazy summer afternoon.


Like-O-Meter Rating: 5 out of 5…grab it!

**Rating scale**
5 out of 5…grab it!
4 out of 5…think about it.
3 out of 5…take or leave it.
2 out of 5…maybe not for you.
1 out of 5…forget about it!


LUNADAR cover jpg

(Buy at Amazon)

Ruler by day, a reluctant pirate by night, 18-year-old Princess Ariana fights for her subjects in the waterfall city of Lunadar. In a kingdom surrounded by fairies and mermaids, and ravaged by deadly Drundles, only a chosen few are trusted to guard her daughter, Candra, as the secret heir to the throne.

But it only takes one ill-fated meeting for Ariana to suddenly be plunged into an escalating web of secrets found in her father’s journal, a deadly kidnapping, and an ever-weakening resolve to turn her back on the call of the merman’s song.

With Ariana’s world falling apart and the future of Lunadar at stake, how will she bring her father’s murderer to justice and fulfill a deathbed promise to protect Lunadar’s legacy?


Author Profile Pic


International best selling, award winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection. Donna’s latest book, LUNADAR: Homeward Bound (a YA fantasy), ebook edition, is now available from Amazon.

BOOK NOOK REVIEWS: Brian & Liam Anderson




Title: Monster Chefs
Authors/Illustrators: Brian & Liam Anderson
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Ages: 4 to 8




One horrible monster king summons his four horrible chefs and demands they find him something new to eat. He’s tired of eating only eyeballs and ketchup. They must bring him something tasty to try or he will put those horrible chefs on the menu as the main course!


Why you should read it:


Thanks to the talented Tara Lazar and Tammi Sauer, I’m on a monster kick right now so my bookshelves are quickly being filled with all kinds of cool monster books. MONSTER CHEFS starts out with an almost comfortingly familiar feel of a fairy tale with the four monster chefs going off in four different directions in search of something new for the monster king to eat. Then the story takes on a delicious twist as each chef comes across something they think would please their king. The final surprise comes when the last chef makes it back to the kingdom where the monster king can hardly wait to try something new. I love, love, LOVED the unexpected ending and thoroughly enjoyed the lovely illustrations which accompanied this delightful children’s book. This book is definitely a keeper!

Like-O-Meter Rating: 5 out of 5…grab it!

**Rating scale**
5 out of 5…grab it!
4 out of 5…think about it.
3 out of 5…take or leave it.
2 out of 5…maybe not for you.
1 out of 5…forget about it!




Title: Old Bear and His Cub
Author/Illustrator: Olivier Dunrea
Publisher: Philomel Books
Ages: 4 to 8




Old Bear love his cub with all his heart. Cub loves Old Bear with all his heart. Sometimes Cub doesn’t want to listen to Old Bear and sometime Old Bear finds out its time to listen to Cub.


Why you should read it:


I’m usually drawn to picture books talking about the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild because there aren’t as many books available on the subject as other themes. This author not only tells a sweet tale about two creatures taking care of one another, but also adds their own delightful illustrations to help showcase the universal theme of love and caring. Readers young and old will want to snuggle down to enjoy this book over and over again.

Like-O-Meter Rating: 5 out of 5…grab it!

**Rating scale**
5 out of 5…grab it!
4 out of 5…think about it.
3 out of 5…take or leave it.
2 out of 5…maybe not for you.
1 out of 5…forget about it!


WRITERLY WISDOM: Diane Kress Hower



Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. I’ve made many friends over the years through this writing community, including my next guest blogger…

Picture Books: Too Sweet Or Magically Delicious?
By Diane Kress Hower


Writing picture books is great fun and a good deal of hard work. I often suggest to my readers and TV audience to visit my Book Wisdom by Diane blog to think of choosing books like picking a cereal for your child. What do you want for your child? What’s in their best long-term interest? Thank you, Donna for giving me the opportunity to share this analogy with your readers.

Where on the cereal isle do you see your most recent picture book manuscript? How does your story stack up? What makes a picture book desirable food for the young child? I am sure you have ideas about this. We know what sells. However, what does the child need?

When was the last time you walked down a cereal isle and looked at all the options? It’s mind-boggling. There are the classics. Oatmeal, Original Shredded Wheat, Rice Krispies, Cheerios, and Corn Flakes have stood the test of time. Will your writing do the same?

There are the sweet treats. Life, Raisin Bran, Honey Bunches of Oats, Frosted Mini Wheats, and Honey Nut Cheerios have some sweetness but still provide basic nutrition. What level of sweetness does your story bring to a child?

The poppin’ group flashes eat me from the shelf. Honey Smacks, Frosted Flakes, Captain Crunch, Froot Loops, and Lucky Charms are packaged with inviting labels and colors. They also make the top 10 list of the worst cereals for kids. Is your story all flash and color? Is it lacking something?

At the end of the isle, the small granola group is shelved, a more recent arrival providing alternatives to classics and the poppin’ varieties. Granola, Kashi Strawberry Fields, Barbara’s Blueberry Mini Wheats aim to provide the sustenance and kid appeal for discerning consumers. How does your story sustain?

Options and variety abound on the cereal isle and in the genre of picture books. Do you place limits on your writing based on fitting-in and selling? Do you write with the child in mind?




Diane Kress Hower is an author/illustrator who loves picture books. Her professional background of nearly 25 years is in education, counseling, and art. Currently, she is teaching part-time remedial reading at the middle school level in the area of special education while immersed in writing/illustrating/and photography. In her spare time, Diane reviews children’s literature on her blog http://www.bookwisdombydiane.blogspot.com, serves as local area coordinator for the West Slope of Colorado RMC, SCBWI, and is a commissioner for the City of Grand Junction, on the Arts and Culture Commission. You can find out more about her on  her website, www.dkhower.com,  Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/dkhower),  and Twitter (https://twitter.com/dkhower),





Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week’s guest blogger is Alison Hertz, another lovely author I met through Tara Lazar’s Storystorm years ago…


Weathering the Brainstorm: Tips for Creating a List of Picture Book Concepts
By: Alison Hertz


First of all, Donna, thank you for having me on your blog.

For those who don’t know me, I write and illustrate books for children. While I dabble in chapter books and mid grade novels, I write mostly picture books – a lot of them. I am often asked by writer friends and non writer friends how I come up with soo many different ideas for picture books and my answer is simple. Brainstorm.

Okay, I know that brainstorming can even be intimidating for some. You may be thinking, brainstorm what? People tell me that they enjoy writing for kids but they simply don’t know what to write about when starting to work on a new manuscript. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to sit down and come up with a list of 25 picture book story concepts off the top of your head. Here are my tips:

1. Go to a playground or Chuck E Cheese or the play area at McDonalds and other places that children like to hang out. Go sit in the waiting area of a children’s dentist or pediatrician. Go to a children’s museum, an aquarium, or a planetarium. Watch how children behave, listen to what they are interested in or worried about. Just don’t take pictures of anyone or they might think you are some kind of creep. Take your own kids with you or your nieces or nephews or grandchildren – watch and listen.

2. Now that you are thinking about those places that children go (they don’t have to like all of these places), make a list of as many as you can think of. Here, I’ll start it for you:

A friend’s house
Grandma’s house
Their own backyard
(Now you add at least ten more places.)

3. Now make a separate list of events in a child’s life. Think about the age you want to write for 0-3, 3-5, 5-8 and what events are specific to that age. Write down as many events as you can. I’ll start it for you:

Losing a tooth
Getting a pet
First sleep over
Birthday parties
Taking the bus to school for the first time
Making his or her own breakfast or lunch
(Now you add at least ten more events.)

4. Here comes the fun part, combine your lists. Take an event from list 2 and have it occur at a place on list 1. There are no wrong answers here. Kids can have nearly anything happen anywhere. Make a list of combinations. For this step, I’m going to add “What If” to the beginning. Here are a few to start you off:

What if a child lost his/her tooth at a museum?
What if a child has his/her birthday party at Grandma’s house?
What if a child has a play date at the beach?

5. You might think that you have a list of picture book concepts and we are done. You have weathered the brainstorm. Sorry but, right now, your list of story ideas are not yet picture book worthy. To turn this list into fun, page turners, we need to throw a wrench in the machine (so to speak). Next to your list of ideas, write something devastating or amazing that could happen during that event. Remember to think of what would be great or horrible for a child (not an adult). For example:

What if a child lost his/her a tooth at a museum – and the tooth dropped into an exhibit?
What if a child had his/her birthday party at Grandma’s house and Grandma drops the cake?
What if a child has a play date at the beach and they find a hermit crab together – who will get to bring it home?

These additions to your events and locations turn your idea into a story. Now, go weather the brainstorm and have fun coming up with ideas.


flap(Weaving Dreams Publishing 2012)


When Max and Katie decide to teach their little sister to fly, they quickly learn that telling her to flap, just isn’t enough.
Page by page, the siblings get more and more inventive in an effort to help their little sister soar through the air.




Alison Hertz is a writer, illustrator, teacher, toy designer, juggler, and former summer camp director. Her picture book, FLAP, released in November of 2012 and is available in stores and online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, and her website.

To learn more about Alison Hertz:
Website: www.AlisonHertz.com
Blog: www.AlisonHertz.blogspot.com
Twitter: @AlisonHertz
Facebook: www.facebook.com/AlisonHertzAuthor