JUST READ! (+ giveaway)

Today I have the pleasure of sharing a new book hot off the press (releases March 5) titled JUST READ! by Lori Degman, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov. It’s a lovely story with a wonderful, universal theme of reading which probably makes other authors wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

The glorious illustrations are bright and inviting, and the text is just as delightful. So I invited rhymer extraordinaire, Lori Degman, to stop by Picture Book Builders and share her insights on the creation of this fantastic book.

1. Thanks for joining us Lori! I LOVE the topic of your book — that children can read anywhere and with anyone. Or as your story says more eloquently, “Hooray! I know how to read on my own. But sometimes I don’t want to do it alone.” How did you think of such a great topic?

My original story was about a girl who is so excited she can read on her own, that she can’t stop reading.  She reads everything she sees – books, cereal boxes, washing directions on clothing tags – everything! As I was writing it, I thought it would be better to have a group of kids who love to read and make it all about them reading – no matter where, when, what, how or with whom they read.  Because of this change, the book is more a series of vignettes, without a traditional story arc.  About reading with anyone – I originally had the kids reading with people they know – parents, cousins, neighbors . . . One of my writer friends (can’t remember who) suggested I have the kids read “with” characters in the book.  I think that makes it more fun. 

* Now that I’ve thought about my original story again, I think I’ll find my first draft and finish it. DIBS! 

2. Your rhyming in the book is spot on. How do you craft such clever rhymes? Is it a long process filled with many revisions, or does it come easily to you? 

Thanks!  I work really hard at making my rhyme and meter as strong as it can be – actually I still make changes (in my head) to lines in my published books all the time!  Luckily, I have a good ear for sounds and rhythms, so that makes it easier for me to write in rhyme. Most of the time, the rhyming words just pop in my head, but when they don’t, Rhymezone.com really helps! When I can’t find a rhyming word – or I want a more interesting or complex word, I use the “find rhymes” or “find synonyms” sections of the site.  

When writing a book with a particular theme or setting, like JUST READ, 1 ZANY ZOO, or COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS, I’ll make a list of words I can use as end rhymes or as part of a joke or pun.  So, for JUST READ, I thought about different places kids might read – “I read in a bus, on a plane or a train/I read in a cave our outside in the rain.”; or how they might read – “I read with my fingers across bumpy lines/ I read with my voice or my hands using signs.”); or when they might read – “I read while I’m waiting to hear my name called/I read while we’re driving and traffic has stalled.”. The lists usually spark lots of ideas.  Sometimes, the rhymes help me with plotting; they take me in directions I hadn’t expected to go.  But, you have to be careful not to let the rhymes take you off on a tangent that doesn’t help move the story forward.

3. I noticed the phrase “Romona Road” in one of the illustrations, and also see you thanked a teacher from Romona School in the Dedication. How did your school name ended up in an illustration?

In the manuscript, I had an art note that said it was the Romona Road Book Club. As you know, lesser-known authors like me don’t usually have much say about the illustrations.  But, I asked if we could please keep the name and they said we could.  In 3rd grade, I was going through some issues at home and Mrs. Hardy took me under her wing and helped me get through it.  That’s why I decided to be a teacher – so I could make a difference in kids’ lives, just as she had!

4. Anything surprising or unusual happen during the creation of this book that you’d like to share? 

I was surprised how quickly the story came together.  I think because I had a theme with a series of scenes, it made it so much easier – no plotting problems to slow me down!  I was also amazed at Victoria Tentler-Krylov’s illustrations!  They turned out far better than I’d imagined!

* * * * GIVEAWAY! * * * *

Lori is giving away an autographed copy, and will randomly select the winner from those who leave a comment. Enjoy!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

“A chipper, colorful celebration of the limitless possibilities for what, where, and when one can read.” — Publishers Weekly

Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at: www.suzanneslade.com


  1. This looks lovely! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  2. Thank you for this post. Can’t wait to just read this book. Can’t wait fo study this story.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I love the illustrations!

  4. The topic is great (who doesn’t love reading!) and the illustrations are captivating. So much to look at! Kudos!

    • I agree – who doesn’t love reading. And, if someone doesn’t, maybe this book will spark an interest! I’m still seeing new things in the illustrations and I’ve looked at them a lot!

  5. what a smart idea to inspire reading! plus i enjoyed lori’s personal story about her teacher–can’t wait to get this one:)

  6. Jennifer Lane Wilson

    I love the artistry of the illustrations and the rhyming!

  7. I’ll have to let my library know about this one. It looks and sounds delightful, Lori! Congrats!

  8. This sounds like a fun a book. And a great motivator for kids to read. I great teaching tool! Congrats! Looking forward to seeing the rhymes you came up with.

  9. I love rhyming texts and Lori does it so well. I’m looking forward to reading JUST READ!

  10. Beautiful! I appreciate a good rhyme when I read it. 🙂

  11. I Iove books that rhyme! They make such great read-alouds.

  12. Looks like a fun book! Can’t wait to read it!

  13. These illustrations look like SO MUCH fun!

  14. I love to read books with rhyme
    makes me smile, time after time!

  15. Rhyme and reading all in one–it’s on order. Can’t wait to read it. Thanks.

  16. Oh my goodness this looks adorable! I reserved it at my library as soon as I finished the post–I’ll be the first one to get my hand on it since they don’t have it in yet! 🙂 I don’t write in rhyme but am always SO impressed by those who do it flawlessly. Congratulations and thank you for the post.

  17. First of all, it’s great to know rhyming books are still being published! And it is sometimes nice to write about a topic that doesn’t require the usual problem/barriers/solution/transformation of MC! Nicely done.

    • Thanks, Mary! It’s funny because people are always saying editors don’t like rhyme, yet they keep publishing it! I think what they don’t like is bad meter. My book, LIKE A GIRL, which comes out in August, has the same format – but it’s more non-fictiony.

  18. How fun! I just love to read!

  19. lOOKS YUMMY! I’ll be reading this one for myself. I collect picture books about books and reading.

  20. Jill Richards Proctor

    Loving all the sneak peaks at your beautiful book, Lori! You’re always such an inspiration. Eagerly awaiting its birth day.

  21. Lori, you are my rhyming guru. Can’t wait to read your latest!

  22. It sounds wonderful! Rhyming stories are so much fun. Congratulations, Lori!

  23. Great idea, Lori! I can’t wait to read it! ?

  24. Best wishes for many sales and happy readers!

  25. Carmela McCain Simmons

    Sounds delightful! Thanks for sharing it here.

  26. Hey, pal! So good to see you here! So sad we never run in the same circles anymore! Hope to see you soon. Sent a PM. XOXO

  27. I’m always happy to see a new book by Lori. Thanks for sharing.

  28. Thanks Lori for sharing your new book! It looks so fun. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  29. Such a great idea for a book, Lori. And I agree with Suzanne – your rhyme is spot on! Congratulations!

  30. I’m happy to discover Lori’s new book. It looks lovely and I look forward to reading it.

  31. Such a delightful concept for a lovely picture book. Thank you for introducing me to Lori’s new book.

  32. Celeste Bocchicchio-Chaudhri

    Good rhyming books are so hard to find! Thanks for sharing this one with us.

  33. I was so happy to READ this interview. I especially enjoyed learning about your process for crafting those clever rhymes.

    Congratulations, Lori!

  34. What a beautiful story and the illustrations are fanciful! As a kid, I would have been drawn to this book. I still am as an adult!

  35. I loved learning about Mrs. Hardy. And what delicious illustrations! I want to be the girl in the red and white striped top.

  36. Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    Hi Lori! So excited to read this with an extremely voracious 2nd grade reader in my house. He’ll love it! Congrats! And thanks for keeping Rhyme alive!

  37. Love to read new books

  38. Thanks for the introduction to this book, it looks like a great READ! Congratulations to Lori!

  39. Another winner! And I hope we get the other, original version as well. I love these illustrations.

  40. This looks like a lovely read, Lori! The illustrations are so colorful and inviting. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy! Congrats to both Lori and Victoria.

  41. I love this idea for a book! I can’t wait to read it! And those illustrations are stunningly gorgeous.

  42. What a clever, wonderful book! Can’t wait to read and share.

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