Author Spotlight: Jordan J. Scavone

Today I’m pleased to welcome Jordan J. Scavone, author of two published picture books. Might-E (2015) is the story of 4-year-old Emma, who decides to become a superhero in order to face her fears about starting preschool. The Mud Princess (2018) is about a young princess named Georgia, who is mocked by other princesses for being different, but ultimately has to decide whether to save those who mocked her from a fierce dragon.

Jordan, your books both feature strong, inspirational female characters. Where did you get the ideas for these stories?

So, both books are loosely inspired by real girls at the daycare that I work at. Emma is a girl I met on one of the first days working in a preschool room. She walked up to me, did that narrow-eyed look that preschoolers always give new people and said “Spider-Girl is my favorite superhero.” Something about that interaction just stuck with me, and when I decided to do a superhero book, I knew that Emma was part of that inspiration. As for Georgia, well Georgia really is a mud princess. She was in my classroom as a toddler, and that girl didn’t care how nice the clothes she had on were, she just wanted to jump in any mud puddle she could find. I nicknamed her ‘Mud Princess’ and I loved how the name sounded, and that was the initial inspiration for the full Mud Princess text.

I have always been drawn to strong female characters in books, even when they aren’t the lead role. I believe that is part of the reason why I enjoy writing them. I grew up in a house where my Mom really was in charge, she had final say, so it probably stems from that. My grandma has always been a leading lady as well, she was (well is) the boss of the family, so I was always around strong females. Now, as an adult I am married to one, and I’ve never once found myself thinking “Men are stronger than women.” Honestly, as I grew up I was confused why people said “men are in control” because I always saw mom/grandma as the ones in charge. So yeah, that was a bit of a ramble, but yes, strong female characters are good.

How much input did you have on the illustrations? Did the final illustrations match your expectations?

With Might-E I had slightly less input. I made a few changes such as having Emma’s dad have facial hair, but for the most part Caitlyn read my text and really picked up on what I was putting down. My biggest input was how I wanted Emma/Might-E to look, there was an image in my head and that was how I wanted it.

With Mud Princess I was more involved. This was one of the first books Monica had worked on, so I was more hands-on with that. I have a M.A. in Children’s Literature, and one of my focuses was on illustrated texts, so I have a very solid grasp of how books need to look. I also did the formatting for Mud Princess, so being more hands-on with the illustrations was ideal. Monica and Caitlyn both were extremely wonderful to work with, and both are incredibly talented.

Both books are, to me, perfect illustration wise. Ever time I read one of them I want to just rewrite them both and tweak things that I no longer care for, but I’ve been told that’s pretty common.

What kind of reactions have you had from kids, parents or other readers of your books?

A lot of reactions. All good, no one has said something particularly bad to my face, though I’m sure someone who has read either book hasn’t enjoyed them. Some of my favorite responses are:

“Just because she is muddy doesn’t mean she can’t be a princess.” – A preschooler in response to reading Mud Princess for the first time.

“Wait! I need to get my cape before we read Might-E!” – A daughter to her dad

“I bought this book for my college freshman granddaughter.” – A grandma on Might-E

But two of my all-time favorite moments involve two of my friends’ daughters. One of them has refused to look at or talk to me since reading Might-E because now she is super shy due to wanting to read Might-E daily. Another sent me a video of her daughter using Might-E to learn to read, which to me is just the coolest thing in the world.

What’s next? Can you tell us what you have in the pipeline at the moment?

Currently I am working on two things. An urban fantasy young adult novel that is quite a huge step away from Might-E and Mud Princess. For picture books, I am on my fourth draft of a new text, that is going to be a bit controversial. I’m kind of try to keep that one publicly under-wraps until a formal announcement (which could happen by the end of this year!) You can follow me on facebook at facebook.com/MightEBook or on Twitter/Instagram at @RealJScavone and maybe be one of the first to hear about this new book. Don’t forget to use my hashtags! #BeMightE & #StayMuddy!

To find out more or contact Jordan, visit his website at: https://www.jordanjscavone.com

Author Bio:
Jordan has his M.A. in Children’s Literature from Eastern Michigan University. He is married to a totally awesome lady named Chelsea, and together they have a cat with allergies name Lizbeth. Jordan is horribly color-blind, which really frustrates him when he tries to do artwork (it’s not good!) Jordan also wrote is first picture book before he was ten, he still has it, it’s called The Animals Look for Food, and you’ll never guess what it’s about! Jordan loves turtles, puffins, and is always searching for the perfect grilled cheese!

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Book Review: Yes I Can!

Title: Yes I Can!
Authors: Kendra J Barrett, Jacqueline B. Toner, Claire A. B. Freeland
Illustrator: Violet Lemay
Age: 4-7

This week I’m reviewing another delightful picture book by the American Psychological Association.

Yes I Can! is about a young girl starting school who is just like other children – except that she’s in a wheelchair. The title phrase “yes I can” provides a recurring refrain throughout the book that endears us to the main character, Carolyn, while giving the book an uplifting sense of positivity.

Although there is not much storyline, the book holds the reader’s interest by showing all kinds of everyday activities that Carolyn can take part in (baking cookies, playing ball games, riding the bus…) as well as some that she can’t (such as bouncing on a trampoline with her friends). Carolyn is portrayed as very normal and human, sometimes getting frustrated about the things that she can’t do, but making the most of the things she can.

While the book has clearly been written as an educational resource, it’s a fun, uplifting and heart-warming story that children will enjoy because of the many familiar themes and settings such as friendship, family, school and birthday parties. It would undoubtedly help children who have little experience with wheelchair users to understand and feel more comfortable around disabled peers.

The illustrations are bright, colourful and expressive, complementing the text nicely.

Back matter consists of a helpful “Notes to Parents, Caregivers and Teachers” section, including common questions that children ask about people with disabilities and answers to these questions.

Yes I Can! will be released on 20th November 2018. Thanks to NetGalley, the American Psychological Association and Magination Press for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

ICL Kindergarten Picture Book Contest

If you’re a children’s writer trying to break into the tough picture book market, competitions and contests can be a way to make a name for yourself, and practise honing a manuscript for publication. There is a myriad of writing competitions out there, some free and some with an entry fee, but few are specifically for picture book authors.

Today I’d like to tell you about a contest offered by the ICL (Institute of Children’s Literature): The Kindergarten Picture Book Contest. It will immediately be clear to my fellow British writers from the word “kindergarten” that this is an American contest, but entry doesn’t appear to be limited to US residents.

Manuscripts should be about or set in a kindergarten context, no more than 500 words long, and aimed at children aged 4-6 years. All submissions must be previously unpublished.

There is an entry fee of $19, so you’ll have to judge for yourself whether the benefits of entering will justify the cost. I decided to enter myself because I happened to have a picture book manuscript about kindergarten that I didn’t know what to do with!

Deadline for submissions is 30th November 2019. For more information, click here.

Book Review: Terrific Toddlers series, by the American Psychological Association

Titles: Boo-Boo!; Bye-Bye!; All Mine!
Authors: Carol Zeavin & Rhona Silverbush
Illustrator: Jon Davis
Age: 1-4 years (and parents!)

Whereas I usually review individual books, today I’m taking a look at a series of three titles that are due to be published simultaneously at the end of this month by the American Psychological Association. Each book is aimed at toddlers and deals with a specific everyday issue, namely: injuries, saying goodbye, and sharing (or defending!) possessions.

The stories are written in a straightforward, realistic style that toddlers can easily understand. However, what makes these books unique is the “Notes to Parents and Caregivers” section at the back, explaining this difficult developmental stage and giving advice on how to support a child and teach them to express their emotions. The stories thus serve a dual purpose of entertaining picture book and parental help guide!

The illustrations calm and reassure the reader with their simplicity and soft palette, while nicely complementing the stories. A cute, entertaining and subtly educational series of books for young children and their parents!

The Terrific Toddlers series, consisting of the titles Boo-Boo!, Bye-Bye! and All Mine!, will be released on 30th October 2018. Thanks to NetGalley, the American Psychological Association and Magination Press for an advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

#PBPitch is just around the corner!

On 25th October, picture book authors will take to Twitter en masse to tweet pitches for their completed manuscripts to agents and editors using the hashtag #PBPitch!

I’ve blogged about Twitter pitch parties before when extolling the benefits of Twitter for writers. A major pitch party, which I took part in earlier this year, is #PitMad. Like many pitch parties, #PitMad is for writers of all genres. The exciting thing about #PBPitch, on the other hand, is that it’s exclusively for picture book authors!

You can pitch as many manuscripts as you want, each of them once in the morning and once in the afternoon, between 8am and 8pm Eastern time (don’t forget to calculate the times in your own time zone!) To read the rules and find out more, head over to the #PBPitch website.

Good luck to everyone taking part; I can’t wait to read your pitches! 🙂