Ooh, la, la! Mary Had a Little Glam (+ GIVEAWAY)


Hey, everyone. I have some big news. I sold a rhymer! It’s called Mary Had a Little Glam. The book’s official release date is August 2, but Mary has proven to be fashionably EARLY. She’s already strutting her stuff in a bookstore near you.

Today on Picture Book Builders, I wanted to tell you how this book came to be. I also want to introduce you to the book’s wonderful illustrator, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, who was kind enough to stop by and answer a few questions. There’s also a giveaway. Ooh.


Here’s the scoop:

I was inspired to write Mary Had a Little Glam while reading our very own Linda Ashman’s The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. This resource is an absolute gold mine of information, interviews, and exercises. One of the exercises suggested writing a fresh take on a familiar song or rhyme such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Out of nowhere, the words MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM popped into my head. I knew I had to write Mary’s story. And, of course, since “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is written in rhyme, I knew my manuscript needed to follow suit.

Lucky for me, that particular nursery rhyme follows a very basic pattern.

But, first and foremost, I had to give Mary a story. That’s key. The manuscript couldn’t just be one cute and bouncy stanza after another. Each stanza needed to serve a purpose in pushing the story forward.

Once I uncovered Mary’s story, I did a lot of research on writing rhyme. The best resource I have found for this, by the way, is Lane Fredrickson’s site rhymeweaver.com. In addition, I shared the manuscript with my critique group as well as many of my other author friends who write in rhyme. I knew that if I was going to send a rhymer Out There, I wanted every word, phrase, and stanza to be as strong as possible.

Sterling bought the manuscript, the oh-so-fabulous Vanessa Brantley-Newton signed on to illustrate the book, and I am thrilled that Kirkus gave Mary Had a Little Glam a starred review. Ooh. La. La.

Here’s a little snippet from the review:

“Pinkalicious + Fancy Nancy + Eloise = Mary .  . . the brown-skinned queen of glam. [I]magination and creativity reign supreme . . . [in] this delightful picture book.”


And here’s my interview with Vanessa:

Many thanks for joining us at Picture Book Builders, Vanessa! I’m honored to have you here, and I am even more honored to share a book with you.

When I first found out that you were going to illustrate Mary Had a Little Glam, I felt like I had been handed a treasure. I knew that if anyone could capture glam on the page, it would be YOU.

What drew you to Mary?

When I was sent the manuscript from my agent, I somehow instantly knew that I was supposed to do this wonderful book. First of all, everyone can’t rhyme, and I do understand why some publishers really shy away from books that do so. Everyone thinks that they can rhyme, but it’s not just about the rhyme, but the pose, story, and, as we say in HipHop, the flow! You beautifully put it all together in a way that if I had to sing it I could. LOL!!

I thought this is going to be awesome! I loved the character from the first time I read the script through! I love fashion, and it finds a beautiful stylish way into all of my illustration. It’s something about a well-dressed character that brings that character to life. Mary had a personality on paper that I wanted to bring to life for children to see and even for African American girls and boys, who don’t always see themselves in books like these, to see a child dressed well sends a message to them that they and other brown or yellow children can be beautiful and the star or hero, or, in this case, a Fashionista and fixer of a book.




Mary has flair for what to wear. How did you decide on the fabulous outfit that she wears throughout most of the book? 

I have always loved children’s wear and I get these magazines from London, Paris, Italy, Germany and other places that have the most awesome children’s wear ever!!! The colors and the design simply beg to be seen and or illustrated. They are my inspiration!

Did you base any of it on something you had seen in real life or was all of it straight from your imagination? 

While I am inspired by what I find and see in the magazine and on the web, I still like to add Vanessa in the mix and my creative flair as well. What would I like to dress my little girl, who isn’t a little girl anymore, in? My mom took great pleasure in dressing my sister Coy and me for everything she could think of and this inspires me, too. I love to see children in children’s clothing that’s fun and colorfully and beautifully designed.


If you had one key piece of advice for illustrators, what would it be? 

Remember there is no competition. Nobody can do what you can do. Yes, you may have to fake it before you make it and develop your style. Copying is the highest form of flattery, but at some point you begin to develop a style that is yours and you keep working on it until you master it. THAT IS YOUR MARK NOW! We as illustrators do what only 1 precent of the population gets to do. We spend our creative time measuring our art by people that we admire and long to be like, and that is not a bad thing to do, but when you are no longer inspired and frustration starts to play, or you begin questioning what you bring to the art table, then it becomes a problem. Nobody can do what you do because nobody has your DNA, or exact experiences and upbringing, vision, or heart. You bring all that deliciousness with you when you tell your story through illustration. When you wrap your beautiful fingers around a brush or pencil and make it dance across the page or screen, it becomes a part of you and nobody is exactly like you! Only you can do that.

Thanks again for stopping by, Vanessa! Thanks, too, for putting your love and positive energy into your work and the world in general.

Here’s the GIVEAWAY:

For a chance to win your very own fancy-shmancy copy of Mary Had a Little Glam, please leave a comment. The winner will be notified in my next post.


Congratulations to Rosie Pova! She won a signed copy of My Friend Maggie, written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison.



Tammi Sauer

Tammi Sauer, a former teacher and library media specialist, is a full-time children's book author who presents at schools and conferences across the country. She has more than 30 published picture books and has many others on the way. Her books have received awards, earned starred reviews, made lists, been made into musicals, and been translated into many different languages. Most importantly, kids really like her books! To learn more about Tammi and her books, please visit tammisauer.com and follow her on Twitter at @SauerTammi.


  1. Love the interview. Congrats to you both, it looks fabulous. Can’t wait to read it.

  2. Love hearing the story behind the story. Congratulations to you both on the book!

  3. Mary is beautiful! And I can’t wait to read this book to my students. How neat that you came up with the idea from Linda’s book. I have that book & should reread it! Thanks, Tammi!

  4. Lindsay Hanson Metcalf

    This book sounds fabulous. I also need to check out Linda’s book. Thanks, Tammi!

  5. I loved this manuscript when you first shared it with me, and love seeing it fully glammed-up with Vanessa’s fabulous illustrations. Congratulations to you both!! And thanks for the shout-out, too! 🙂

  6. Good luck with your new book, Tammi – can’t wait to set it out on our shelves at Rodman Public Library in Alliance, OH! Janet Metzger, Head of Children’s Dept. (BTW…love this site!)

  7. What a great idea for a PB! Thanks for sharing and wishing you continued success!

  8. Amanda Sincavage

    What fun, and those illustrations are beautiful! Congratulations!

  9. The title and cover illus. grab the attention. Sounds like a winner. I definitely want to read and feast my eyes on Mary and her little glam. Thanks for bringing it to us.

  10. Mary should definitely be on a Best Dressed list somewhere! The title alone is perfection and the illustrations are adorable. Hope it sells a zillion copies! 🙂

  11. What an absolutely inspired picture book idea! I’m looking forward to adding your newest book to my collection.

  12. Vivacious verse and incredible illustrations! Congratulations, Jill!

  13. Kathy Mazurowski

    Love the glam! Love the rhyme! Can’t wait to see/read Mary Had a Little Glam.

  14. Oopsie! Meant to congratulate Tammi and Vanessa – and thank Jill for posting the good news.

  15. You never cease to amaze me, Tammi! Is there anything you can’t do?!?!
    And I love Vanessa’s illustrations!!
    I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!

  16. LOVE — what fun 🙂 Congrats to you both. I want to get a little glam too!

  17. Congratulations on your new rhymer, Tammi, and to you, Vanessa, for those gorgeous illustrations!

  18. Truly love Mary Had a Little Glam! Instantly I recalled my first real paper doll Winking Winnie! Being a radical sixties child I loved my doll of color. Congratulations in creating a wonderful twist to a normally stereotyped story and creating an excellent example of how authors and illustrators can promote the use of deverse characters. ?

  19. Angie Quantrell

    Congratulations! Lovely book!

  20. Can’t wait to show this to my fashionista students who love to comment on MY clothes on a daily basis – Ha! Love it!

  21. Congratulations to both of you! Mary looks confident and fabulous. Can’t wait to read all about her glam.

  22. Rita D. Russell

    Congratulations, Tammi! I’m so excited to read your latest and greatest PB. So great to know that you were inspired to write this story because of an exercise in Linda Ashman’s “PB Nuts & Bolts” guide book. I’ve meant to purchase it in the past, but now I know that I absolutely must do so. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  23. This book sounds incredible! I can’t wait to read it. I absolutely love rhymers.

  24. This looks like a super fun read with beautiful artwork! I can’t wait to see it!

  25. Jennifer Rumberger

    Congrats on selling a rhymer! And congrats to you both on a fabulous-looking book!

  26. Tammi and Vanessa you’ve spun a nursery rhyme into shimmering gold! And now I have two books I need to read: Linda’s “The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books” and “Mary Had a Little Glam.”

  27. This book looks glamorous! I am excited to read it. Thanks for the interview. It was packed with glam.

  28. Oh, I can’t wait to read this one! I have Linda’s book, but haven’t taken the time to dive in yet. I’ll have to take the plunge now!

  29. Thanks, Tammi and Vanessa. I can’t wait to read this one. I always try to remember, we are all unique, so our work will be unique.

  30. Wonderful! Congratulations to you both Tammi and Venessa! Can’t wait to get this adorable sounding book.

  31. C’est magnifique! Can’t wait to read this! Congrats, Tammi & Vanessa!

  32. Congratulations to you both! I too love a good rhymer and this one suits me for sure…

  33. I am SO looking forward to this book ~ congratulations to you both! Cool that the idea came from Linda Ashman’s The Nuts & Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, one of my favorite resources!!

  34. Kim Pfennigwerth

    This looks so much fun – Can’t wait for this!

  35. Can’t wait to share this with my kiddos!

  36. I love Mary already–can’t wait to read this book! Congrats!

  37. What a fabulous idea! It makes me feel so good to see a well dressed African American girl featured in a delightful book that is fun and uplifting. My sister was one of the first African American Seventh Avenue fashion designers in NYC and she would love to read this to her grand kids! This book is so beautifully written and illustrated — it gives me inspiration as a poet and aspiring kid lit writer.

  38. Heather Preusser

    I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book! Congratulations!

  39. Congratulations to you both! Mary is oh-so-adorable and fabulously glam! And thanks for the resources too. Have been meaning to get Linda’s book forever!

  40. Can’t wait to read this! Love all your books and love to tell especially all my teacher friends, “I knew her growing up!”

  41. Fabulous post – TOTALLY wanna read this one! Thanks, Tammi!

  42. Congrats! Can’t wait to get this book in my hands!!

  43. I had been working on my Illustration skills for picture book and this interview is fabulous…it is exciting and so much to learn

  44. What fun! Thanks for sharing Mary!

  45. Great post! I’m looking forward to reading about Mary’s glam!

  46. Congratulations to Tammi and Vanessa!! A truly remarkable book that is a treasure to read and a visual beauty.

  47. This looks like a fabulous book that needs to be in our school library. Congrats, Tammi and Vanessa!

  48. Looks like another hit for Tammi Sauer! Can’t wait to read it!

  49. I can’t wait to take Mary’s glam to my kinder classroom to share. Been seeing this book on Facebook for a while and I love that Vanessa is getting recognized for her phenomenal work. Tammi, each book you put out is better than the last …I don’t know how you do it. (Although I will always have a spot for I Love Cake! in my heart!)

  50. What a fun and funny story! Great!

  51. This sound like a cute book. Thanks for sharing your story and interview with Vanessa.

  52. Congratulations Tammi and Vanessa. I can’t wait to read this book, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books. I have been looking for a good resource. Thanks!

  53. Many thanks and congratulations, Tammi and Vanessa! This sounds like a delightful book that I can’t wait to read! And yes, The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books is a superb resource. I use it often!

  54. Congratulations, Tammi and Vanessa! I can’t wait to get this book! (And I agree, Linda Ashman’s Guide is fabulous!)

  55. I will be sure to look for MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM at Barnes and Noble this weekend!

  56. Rosemary Basham

    Wow! Sounds like a great story!

  57. This sounds like a fun book and the illustrations look adorable. Of course I’d love to win a copy!

  58. Tammi and Vanessa, congratulations! Look forward to reading your new book!

  59. Congratulations! This book looks fabulous. I can’t wait to read it with my six year old daughter who is learning to read. She loves reading and I’m sure she would love to have this book in her library. Also thanks for the great information. I am definitely inspired as a mother who would one day love to write my own children’s book. Thanks for the giveaway!

  60. Simply awesome! Love everything about this Vanessa- congrats!!??♥️

  61. I am such a fan of Vanessa as an artist and a human being! Congrats!

  62. A certain 5-year-old in my life would ADORE this book!

  63. The story about how Mary Had a Little Glam came to be has inspired a lesson for my high school class. Poetry can be daunting to some students, especially writing it. Taking a classic nursery rhyme and putting their own story and spin into the classic’s model should be an interesting–and, I hope, fun–intro lesson, and there are always some budding illustrators eager to bring out the visual. Thanks!

  64. This is absolutely adorable!!! I just love the bright, fun, happy illustrations and racially diverse characters, and I totally agree that children need a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, not just pages full of rhyming words. I also love the lesson taught in this story that brings light to the spectacle of materialism and “extra”. I want a copy for my child!!!

  65. Perfect for all who love to play dress-up and dress with flair. I love the title and how you were inspired to write it. Thanks for sharing the backstory.

  66. Too cute! ?

  67. I love this wonderful combination! Tammi and Vanessa! Revived nursery rhyme and modern take on children’s fashion. I sure hope I win! And I love Vanessa’s advice to illustrators!!!!!!!!!! Thank you, Vanessa!

  68. Thank you for such great advice for illustrators!

  69. This book is a must-have for me – one of my favorite writers and one of my favorite illustrators together!!! I don’t know if this is a good or bad sign for my Mary Had a Little (secret animal here) manuscript…

    • Thanks, Lynn!

      I don’t think it’s a bad sign at all! There are other fun takes on “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” For example, there’s MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMP. Best of luck with your ms!

  70. Congrats to you both on Mary Had a Little Glam – I’m now in the queue for one of my library’s seven copies. And thanks for the tip on rhymeweaver – will check it out!

  71. Can’t wait to read Mary! Congrats Tammi and Vanessa!

  72. Great illustrations and story. Thanks!!

  73. Congrats to you both and thanks for a behind the scenes peek. I look forward to reading this one.

  74. Congrats on your rhymer! Can’t wait to read it! I love rhyme!

  75. Another fab story! We can hardly wait to read it. ? Congratulations!

  76. Wendy Engelmann

    Congratulations Tammi and Vanessa. I can’t wait to read this book. Both of you are so talented. Thanks for the great interview.

  77. What a fun book!

    Thank you for the list of resources for writing rhyme. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to attempt it yet, but maybe someday. 🙂

  78. Congrats on the book! I can’t wait to read and SEE this wonderful creation.

  79. OH! How lovely! I’m so inspired by Vanessa’s illustrations, but mostly by her interview: “Nobody can do what you do because nobody has your DNA, or exact experiences and upbringing, vision, or heart.” Thank you Vanessa! What an encouragement!

  80. Can’t wait to read this one!

  81. So fresh. So creative. So wonderful!! Nice going, Tammi.

  82. Another fun book of yours to read – yeah! Can’t wait to meet Mary 🙂

  83. I can’t wait to see this book! I love everything Vanessa does and I love your stories, Tammi!

  84. Thank you for sharing about this GLAM book, Tammi, and for introducing us to Vanessa! Huge congrats to you both on a wonderful book!!

  85. Wow!!!! Congrats on your book! I loved hearing where you idea came from and I really loved what Vanessa said about ‘no one can do what you do’. Yay!!!!!

  86. Beautiful! It’s a book that all young readers can find themselves in! There’s a little glam in us all and we can take that treasure and transfer it to the readers! Thanks to you & Vanessa!

  87. I read about your book the other day and thought, “This sounds delightful!” I’m looking forward to reading it. MARY makes me smile.

  88. That has to be the adorable take on the Mother Goose rhymes I’ve ever laid eyes upon — complete with built-in hip hop beat and spunk! Kudos on an inspired collaboration! I’m stoked just gazing at the ensemble…

  89. I can’t wait to read it!

  90. This looks great! I am so excited to get to read it with my daughter. She loves books and I love to read them with her.

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