You Otter Love “Oliver’s Otter Phase”


Have you ever thought…what if I spent the day as an animal? Well, in Lisa Connor’s debut picture book, Oliver’s Otter Phase, one little boy spends the day as his favorite animal from the aquarium!

How did Lisa dream up this idea? It was after a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium, but don’t take it from us. Here is Lisa’s interview!

Were there any funny, special or unusual circumstances or incidents in the conception/writing of this book?

LisaConnorsI knew I wanted to write a story about sea otters after I attended a program on otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. I learned facts about sea otter behavior that I did not know, and I wanted to share this information with kids. I attempted to write a nonfiction book, but kept getting stuck, feeling it was too dry. Then I had a memory of sticking bologna on my tummy as a child and I realized I needed to write a fiction story instead.

When did you become interested in writing?

I first dreamed of writing in my early 20s after reading Winter by Rick Bass.  I thought how wonderful it could be to arrange words in a way that made the reader laugh, cry and ponder those words for days after.

When are you most creative?

A long solo walk or traveling always spark my creativity. Driving last summer in Montana, I had to pull over and have my husband drive, so I could get an idea down on paper.

What is most rewarding and/or challenging about writing children’s books? BookOfTheMonth_Cover

The most challenging aspect of writing children’s books is letting go of an original idea while revising – to rearrange it, chop it up and start over, letting the best story grow. The most rewarding aspect is when this revision process works.

Get to know more about Oliver’s Otter Phase and all the educational extras that we offer on the Arbordale website.


Book Launch: Midnight Madness at the Zoo


When there are no people to gawk at the animals living in the zoo, what happens? A basketball game, of course!

In Sherryn Craig’s new picture book Midnight Madness at the Zoo a nightly basketball game breaks out just as everyone is leaving for the night. Beginning with one polar bear, then a game of one-on-one a new player joins until the field builds to a game of ten. Readers learn counting skills and basketball jargon throughout the story.

Sherryn is no stranger to the game of basketball, and spends her free time cheering on her husband’s high school basketball team. Midnight Madness at the Zoo combines the many things that her family holds dear.

sherryncraigWe went behind the book with Sherryn and here is a sample, to read the entire interview visit the book’s homepage.


What was your incentive to write this particular book?

My oldest son inspired me to write Midnight Madness at the Zoo. It’s what we imagined the animals do when everyone else goes home for the day. While several people cautioned me about writing a book in rhyme, my kids tend to enjoy those books the best. e rhythm and rhyme helps them to remember the story and they “read” the book out loud as I do. It was important to me that my boys enjoy the story, and they’re the audience that I know the best and that I love the most.

What is most rewarding about writing children’s books?

As a working mom, the most challenging thing I find about writing is actually sitting down and doing it. By the time I get my little ones in bed and finish the chores for the day, it’s late, I’m tired, and I want to go to bed, because the next day is only a few hours away. But to do something, and to do it really well, you have to do it a lot. To improve in writing, just like in sports, you have to practice.

Taking a risk and being prepared to fail is another important lesson – in writing, in sports,midnightmad_pic5in life. You’re not going to win every game. So too, everyone is not going to like the story you write. There’s going to be disappointment, and you just have to fight through that, keep putting yourself out there, and try, try again. That’s all we can do. It’s tempting to get wrapped up in all the no’s, but equally important, perhaps even greater than that rejection, is the realization that it only takes one yes.

The greatest reward is certainly getting to tell a story and finding people, like Arbordale, that believe in that story – who, too, are willing to take a risk on someone and something unknown.

Enter to win your own copy of Midnight Madness at the Zoo on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Midnight Madness at the Zoo by Sherryn Craig

Midnight Madness at the Zoo

by Sherryn Craig

Giveaway ends February 29, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Book Launch: The Sparrow and the Trees

SparrowTreesSome writers always knew that they were destined to tell stories, others came to the craft a little later. That was the case with new author Sharon Chriscoe. Her first picture book The Sparrow and the Trees is a retelling of a native folktale that explains why some trees lose their leaves in winter while others do not.

Find out why Sharon chose to retell this story:

SharonChriscoeWhat was your incentive to write this particular book?

I love the Native American folklore, Why The Trees Lose Their Leaves, and it was exciting to base my own story on that wonderful folklore. It was the story I was meant to write. I was thrilled when Arbordale agreed and offered publication.

What is most rewarding and/or challenging about writing children’s books?

The most rewarding aspect of writing The Sparrow and The Trees for Arbordale is knowing that children all around the world are going to read and learn from my book. Arbordale is so fantastic with the amount of educational elements they include with each of their books, from online resources to worksheets to Creative Minds Information — there is something for everyone to learn. I learned a lot while researching this book!

Do you have any advice for parents of young readers and writers?

Read to your children every day. Make it a fun, memorable experience and they will become lifelong readers. One of my favorite quotes is “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” — Emilie Buchwald.

Get the full interview on the book’s home page, click here!

Don’t forget comment on this post to win a copy of The Sparrow and the Trees. And color to your hearts content with these fun pages.

Get to Know Author Janet Halfmann

Janet Halfmann is the award-winning author of many books, including the Sylvan Dell titles Little Skink’s Tail (Gold Mom’s Choice Award, Teachers’ Choice 2009), Fur and Feathers (Gold Moonbeam Award), and the upcoming 2012 Sylvan Dell title Home Sweet Cave.  Janet very kindly agreed to answer some questions for SD about her books, and her life as an author.


When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and what drew you to children’s picture books in particular? 

 I’ve loved to write ever since I was a child, but didn’t realize that I wanted to be a writer until after I graduated from Michigan State University, with plans to teach English and Spanish. While home for a year with our first child, I enrolled in a children’s writing course by mail, and soon was hooked. I had some success selling articles to children’s magazines, like Ranger Rick and Jack and Jill, but I wanted a full-time writing job, so I got a second degree in journalism. That led to stints as a daily newspaper reporter in Wichita, Kansas; managing editor of a national children’s magazine based in Wisconsin; and many years as a creator of coloring and activity books for Golden Books, also based in Wisconsin. When a new owner moved Golden’s activity-book division to New York City, I decided to strike out on my own and write children’s books, my original dream. 

 From the very beginning, I liked writing picture books best. I prefer telling a story in a few words, and I like being able to make every word in a manuscript sing. I also enjoy writing for the picture-book age group. Many of my books are about nature, and when writing for ages 3-8, I can include lots of science and make the animals come alive without getting into all of the technical details. I think it is just more fun!

 Where do you find inspiration for new books?

 My ideas come from all kinds of places: from my children’s and my childhoods, from observing my grandkids and other children, from places I visit, from what people do and say, from nature, from things I read . . . the list goes on and on. Often research for one story leads to inspiration for another.  For example, I got the idea for Little Skink’s Tail (Sylvan Dell 2007) while researching a factual book I wrote about lizards. I was fascinated by young skinks, who often have bright blue tails that they snap off to escape an enemy—and the tail grows back! I thought that a little lizard who loses her bright blue tail and must deal with that would make a fun and educational story.

 For Fur and Feathers (Sylvan Dell 2010) and my upcoming book Home Sweet Cave (Sylvan Dell 2012), I got my basic inspiration from the wish list for manuscripts on the publisher’s website. From there, I added inspiration of my own—a huge sewing box like I always had handy when my four children were growing up for Fur and Feathers, and my and others’ fear of change (plus fascinating things I learned about bat poop) for Home Sweet Cave

 What are some of your most frequently asked questions when doing signings or school visits?

 People want to know how long it takes to write a book. I tell them that each story is different. Many require lots of research. Even for a fiction picture book, I often have a pile of research books several feet high, in addition to research I do on the Internet. Also, story ideas often bounce around in my head for a long time before I start to write them down. 

 People also ask how I find my illustrator. I tell them that the publisher usually chooses the illustrator, and most of the time the artist and illustrator don’t even meet. That way, the writer can do her creative thing and the illustrator is free to do his or her creative thing. Often an illustrator adds some touch that never even entered my mind. For example, in Little Skink’s Tail, illustrator Laurie Allen Klein showed a caterpillar changing into a butterfly throughout the book. And in Fur and Feathers, Laurie dressed the animals in the kid outfits she thought would look the silliest. She also put Little Skink in the new book. Kids love these surprises!

 How long does it take until you feel a manuscript is ready to be submitted to a publisher? Any particular process you go through to make sure it is perfect?

 As I mentioned earlier, the time it takes to write a book varies greatly. Sometimes a manuscript is ready in a month or so, and sometimes it takes years. A lot depends on the amount of research needed, and whether that information is readily available. I’m working on a picture book biography now that I already have been researching off and on for two years.

 Once a manuscript is almost perfect, I read it aloud many times, often pretending that I am reading to one of my grandchildren. Reading aloud helps me make sure every sentence and word flows smoothly and does what I want it to do. I also ask my husband and my grown children to read the manuscript. I spent a lot of time helping my children become good writers while they were growing up, and now they are great at finding things that don’t work in my stories. 

 Any advice for authors interested in having their book published?

 Read, read, read, especially the kind of books you want to write.

Write, write, write, every day if possible, and write about what you enjoy.

Revise, revise, revise, until every word sings.

When you feel every word in your manuscript sings, research publishers to see who does your kind of book and send it off. Then forget about it and start something new. (Most writers have a huge stack of rejection letters.)

 Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and get involved in their state or regional group. You can learn so much by going to writing conferences, workshops, etc. and listening to successful writers. It’s also very helpful to chat with other writers in person or in online writing groups. 

Learn more about Janet at her website or

Check out Janet’s Sylvan Dell titles on the SD website:
Fur and Feathers
Little Skink’s Tail