Author Spotlight: Lydia Lukidis

Today I’m delighted to be able to welcome picture book author Lydia Lukidis to my blog! Her latest release, No Bears Allowed, is an adorable story about a rabbit who gradually overcomes his fear of a big, scary-looking bear and realises the two have more in common than he expected.

No Bears Allowed cover.jpg

Lydia, it’s great to have you here. The delightful No Bears Allowed, published by Blue Whale Press, will officially come out this summer, but is currently available for pre-order. Your STEM book The Broken Bees’ Nest was published in April by Kane Press. You also have many more books that you’ve already published for both the trade and the educational markets. Can you tell us where you draw your inspiration from? What inspired you to write No Bears Allowed?

For me, inspiration can be sparked in many ways. It can come from a photo, a moment or a word, for example. No Bears Allowed was character driven right from the very start, and the characters were swirling around in my head long before the actual narrative was born. Rabbit, who is paralyzed by fear, was the starting point. As I was brainstorming what he could be afraid of, Bear popped up. Once the characters were clear in my mind, the narrative began to develop. It was rooted in facing your fears and also, how friendships can form in the most unlikely ways.

Many of your books are very character-focused. Is that a conscious decision, or does it just happen naturally as the story unfolds?

For better or worse, it seems to be the way my mind often works. I would say many of my books tend to be character driven. It’s not that I consciously aim for this, it just happens on its own accord. Often a strong character will float into my mind, and will start directing my thoughts. Then my attention goes to developing these characters and their voice, and the narrative comes later. I also love writing in the first person, especially for chapter books and middle grade novels, because I can really jump into my character’s shoes.

No Bears Allowed Spread.jpg

As writers, we often encounter all kinds of setbacks, including writers’ block, the difficulty of finding time to write in our already hectic lives and dips in motivation and confidence. What advice would you give to authors to help them persevere through challenges?

The journey as a writer is not always easy. I’ve learned, through the years, to take the rejections in my stride. I generally let them slide off my back, so to speak, rather than taking them personally or becoming overly self-critical (which still happens on occasion!). Having said that, some rejections sting more than others. In those cases, wine and chocolate come to the rescue.

I also sometimes have difficulty carving out time to write and work on my own projects. I give many writing workshops in elementary schools during the school year, and combined with being a mother and household duties, time is tight. Every week, I write down my to-do list and commit to spending some time writing. It doesn’t always happen, but for the most part, I get things done.

In the current market, picture books have to be much shorter than in previous decades. The norm now is under 1000 words, and ideally close to 500 for fiction (non-fiction can be a bit longer). How do you keep your word count so low while still telling a complete, fun and interesting story? And what impact do illustrations have on the text?

Ah, this is the challenge with picture books! Learning how to economise your words is a skill you need to practice. My first drafts typically have too many words, because I’m just focused on getting the story down. Then I pare the text down by removing parts that can be told through illustration, because they play a critical role. Then, I examine the text further. I’m usually guilty of “telling rather than showing” in my early drafts so I chop out the words that say too much, and I allow the actions and dialogue tell the story and show emotion.

Can you tell us about any of your current works in progress? What exciting things do you have in the pipeline?

I just released my third STEM picture book, The Broken Bees’ Nest, published by Kane Press. It’s part of the Makers Make it Work series that encourages young readers to not just think critically, but also engage.

I’m currently working on several new projects (I tend to write several in tandem). I’m really excited about my new middle grade novel based on Greek mythology. I grew up with Greek mythology so this book has been tremendous fun. I’m also working on a few nonfiction books, I’ve been very inspired by authors like Melissa Stewart and Laura Purdie Salas as of late.

And I do a lot of WFH* projects as well and have some new books coming out this year on varied topics ranging from ghost hunting to the immune system.

image006

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, Lydia! I wish you the best with the release of No Bears Allowed and with all of your future endeavours!

You can get hold of a copy of Lydia’s latest book, No Bears Allowed, by clicking one of the links below!

Indiebound
Amazon.com

BIO

Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books. Her latest STEM books include The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery.

Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence.

For more information on the author, please visit www.lydialukidis.com
For more information on the publisher, please visit www.bluewhalepress.com

* WFH = work-for-hire

Advertisements

Book Review: Paws + Edward

Title: Paws + Edward
Author: Espen Dekko
Illustrator: Mari Kanstad Johnsen
Age: 4-7 (officially 8-12)

Back in April 2018 I reviewed (Emma Chichester Clark’s beautiful Up in Heaven), a comforting story portraying a very difficult topic for young children, and in fact for all of us – the death of a beloved pet.

Today’s I’m reviewing a book on the same topic, but which is unique and beautiful in its own way. Paws + Edward was considered worth translating from the original Norwegian, and it’s easy to see why .

Paws is a very old dog and barely has the energy to go for walks with his best friend, Edward. He prefers to sleep and dream about chasing rabbits, and about cats and cars and planes. But he drags himself out because he knows Edward needs fresh air. Then one day Paws falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. Now it’s up to Edward to dream about all the happy times they had together.

I love the fact that most of the story is told through Paws’ eyes and only switches to Edward’s perspective after Paws passes away.

The illustrations touchingly capture the close friendship between boy and dog. They appear to have been inspired by the classic American Clifford series, the first of which, Clifford the Big Red Dog, was published in 1963. The colour palate of Paws + Edward is very similar, using mostly primary colours and a simple yet effective style. The unusually huge dimensions of Paws are also very much reminiscent of Clifford.

While the official recommendation for some reason is 8 to 12 years, I would recommend Paws + Edward for children aged approximately 4 to 7, in particular if they’re dealing with the death or old age of a pet.

You can get hold of a copy of this book by clicking one of the links below!

Paws + Edward was released on 7th May 2019. Many thanks to Kids Can Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

IndieBound
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

Don’t Miss the Next #PitMad on 6th June AND Book Review: A Little House in a Big Place

Title: A Little House in a Big Place
Author: Alison Acheson
Illustrator: Valériane LeBlond
Age: 4-7

I try to stick to one topic per blog post for the sake of my own sanity and so as not to overload you, my dear readers. However, I already had a book lined up to review this week, then I realised #PitMad has snuck up again. So just to let you know – the next one takes place this coming Thursday, 6th June! Feel free to check out one of my previous posts on this quarterly event, or hop directly to the contest’s website for more information!

And now, the picture book that I have the pleasure to review this week is: A Little House in a Big Place.

In this story, a girl (whose name we don’t find out) lives with her family in a little house in the countryside next to a railway line. Every day the same driver drives a train past her house from East to West and West to East.

Although they know nothing about each other, the girl always waves to the driver and he waves back. That is, until his final day, when he leaves behind a memento that will stay with the girl as she grows up and moves away from her little house.

If you prefer stories with plenty of action, then this one may not be for you, but it has a cute, cosy, dreamlike feel to it that is sure to have a calming effect on little ones at bedtime and will leave many an adult feeling all warm and fuzzy.

The illustrations are in soft, gentle hues. Like in the best picture books, they tell a large part of the story – in this case showing the girl’s idyllic life and revealing a great deal about her relationship with her family that’s not even mentioned in the text.

You can get hold of a copy of this book by clicking one of the links below!

A Little House in a Big Place was released on 7th May 2019. Many thanks to Kids Can Press and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

IndieBound
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

Book Review: Untitled (yes, that really is the title of this book!)

Title: Untitled
Author & Illustrator: Timothy Young
Age: 5-8

I absolutely LOVE metafiction*! While I haven’t yet had much experience writing metafictional picture books myself, I’m always excited to read new ones. My favourites include Tom Fletcher’s There’s a Dragon in Your Book, many offerings by Richard Byrne, such as This Book is Out of Control, and basically everything ever created by Hervé Tullet.

I was therefore excited when Schiffer Publishing sent me an advance copy of Timothy Young’s latest picture book, entitled (yes, really): Untitled. Isn’t that a great title? Well, I think so.

The book is narrated by two bored characters who are fed up with their illustrator. Carlos is a coatimundi and Ignatz morphs early on from a porcupine into a capybara, commenting resignedly that maybe the illustrator “got tired of drawing all the quills.”

The story revolves around the pair imagining the kinds of situation they would like the illustrator to draw them in, such as the Wild West, and deep under the ocean. But of course, nothing interesting will actually happen… Or will it? Read the book to find out and discover the hilarious twist!

Untitled is packed with so much subtle and ingenious humour. The best page, in my view, is when the characters are looking at various books, wishing they could be drawn by one of those illustrators instead of their own. If you’re familiar with many picture books, you’ll delight like I did in spotting a variety of well-known ones, from classics such as Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to recent gems like Debbi Ridpath Ohi’s I’m Bored – and they’ve all had their covers and titles cleverly altered to feature our heroes.

Contrary to the opinion of Ignatz and Carlos, the illustrations in this book are fantastic. While consistency would normally be extremely important in a picture book, this unique story makes effective use of varying styles to portray the different situations that the characters imagine themselves in. I’d highly recommend Untitled for kids (and adults!) of all ages!

You can get hold of a copy of this book by clicking one of the links below!

Untitled will be released on 28th May 2019. Many thanks to Schiffer Publishing Ltd. and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

IndieBound
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

*If you’re not familiar with the term “metafiction”, it’s essentially when characters or the narrator break out of their roles to address the reader, maybe even encouraging them to take part in the action in some way. This is not to be confused with picture books that are interactive in the sense of having real buttons to press or flaps to open or tabs to pull. In the case of metafictional picture books, you simply imagine that you are interacting with the goings on in the story.

Book Review: Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden

Title: Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden
Author: Andrew Larsen
Illustrator: Anne Villeneuve
Age: 4-7 (officially 8-12!)

Vincent is spending the summer with his Aunt Mimi in the city while his mother is recovering from an operation. With no friends and nothing to do, it doesn’t look like he’s going to have much fun. But then he meets Toma, and the two boys bond while throwing some old dirt balls over the fence into an abandoned lot.

However, when plants start to spring up in the empty lot, it becomes clear that the balls were more than just dirt. And before long a beautiful flower garden has appeared in the middle of an otherwise grey neighbourhood.

This is a truly inspirational picture book about friendship, hope and the power of nature. I especially enjoyed seeing how the whole community comes together at the end to enjoy their new oasis of tranquility together.

The illustrator has done a fantastic job capturing the gradual transition from a grey, joyless environment to a place filled with beauty. The growth of the plants also mirrors Vincent’s own personal journey as he emerges from his state of boredom and finds a friend to play ball, read comics and eat ice cream with.

For some reason the official age recommendation for Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden on Amazon is 8-12 years. While I entirely agree with the increasingly widespread view that picture books can be enjoyed by all ages (and this one would certainly make an impression on older children and adults), I would estimate that it’s most suitable for children aged approximately 4 to 7 years.

You can get hold of a copy of this book by clicking one of the links below!

Me, Toma and the Concrete Garden was released on 7th May 2019. Many thanks to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

IndieBound
Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk