Brrrrrrrrr… it’s getting cold outside! What better time to start thinking about winter than to take a look at this BEAUTIFUL new photo-illustrated, rhyming picture book!?
(Answer: there is NO better time!)
We are lucky enough to have author Buffy Silverman here today to answer some questions about this fabulous book!
RGL: Hi Buffy and welcome to Picture Book Builders! There’s so much I love about this book, but let’s start with the lyrical language, rhyme, and wordplay used throughout, since those are always the first things that attract me to any book. First, I am CRAZY about your choice to connect interesting words together, using tons of alliteration and assonance, in order to invent unique-descriptive-fun-to-say adjectives, such as “cloud-puffing,” “bug-snuggling,” and “white-whirling.” I also love the short lines and succinct rhyme scheme and meter you’ve chosen. I know this book is part of a series (more on that later), so you follow the same meter and structure as your other books, but how and why did you come up with this structure to begin with?
BS: The first book in this series, On a Snow-Melting Day, started as an idea for StoryStorm. Heidi Stemple’s post on January 10, 2018 encouraged writers to pay attention to what’s around them. I was staring out the window at the dripping icicles thinking about her post, and a phrase popped in my head. Here’s what I wrote in my notebook:
It was a drip droppy
snow melting day
Initially I thought the image and words would lead to a short poem, but about a month later I had a writing day with my critique group and decided to explore the idea more fully. I started playing with a series of two word rhyming sentences to show what was happening on a drip-droppy, slip-sloppy, snow-melting day. On a Gold-Blooming Day and On a Flake-Flying Day, the two books that followed, use the same pattern to explore what critters in a forest, lake, and pond are doing as the seasons change.
RGL: Another thing I love about this book is that it is photo-illustrated with the most gorgeous and perfect up-close images from nature to accompany your words. How in the WORLD was this accomplished? I read on your website that you can often be found outside, observing in nature with your camera. Did YOU take the pictures in this book? Or, if not, did you find and choose the photos first and then write to match them? Or did you write the words first and then your publisher just so happened to find the perfect images to match? I’m so intrigued!
BS: I admire people who think in pictures, but that’s not an ability I have! I play with words, and hope that they will be illustratable, so the words always come first for me. I did contribute some of the photos in the first two books in the series, but On a Flake-Flying Day is fully illustrated with stock photos. (I actually took a few winter photos for the book, but somehow didn’t remember to offer them when it came time for it to be illustrated. Yikes–organization is not always my strong point…) I agree with you that the design team at Millbrook did an amazing job finding photos and putting a stunning book together!
RGL: Okay, can we just talk about the back matter for a minute? You have two full spreads of amazing detailed back matter on all the animals and winter phenomenon you feature in the main text. Plus, a glossary. It is all so kid-friendly, interesting and educational and looks like it took a LOT of extra research. Was this back matter included with your original submission or was this something your publisher asked you to add later and why?
BS: I included back matter in my original submission. Back matter is a nonfiction writer’s best buddy–it’s the place to expand the main text, answer a curious young child’s questions, and potentially increase the appeal of a book to an older child, too. But yes, writing the back matter took a LOT of research and revising to accurately and succinctly explain the amazing adaptations that allow animals to survive in winter! For example, the entry for the two-word sentence “Grouse strides” explains how grouse can walk on top of deep snow–they grow spines on their toes in fall, which act like snowshoes. Their “snowshoes” allow them to reach up high and nibble tree buds in winter. Grouse also burrow into snow drifts at night, keeping them hidden and insulating them from the cold air. Carol Hinz wrote a terrific blog post about what to include in back matter that writers might wish to read: https://lernerbooks.blog/2021/02/a-closer-look-whats-the-deal-with-back-matter.html
RGL: I have a soft spot in my heart for non-fiction rhyming concept books, probably because I really want to write one someday, but I haven’t quite figured out how to pull it off! I just think the combination of poetic writing with actual facts is so magical (as is proof with this book)! What advice do you have for others who are interested in writing non-fiction lyrical concept books like this (Asking for a friend) :)
BS: My advice is to go to your library and study a stack of recently published non-fiction rhyming/lyrical books for inspiration! Here are a few of the many lyrical nonfiction (or informational fiction) books that I admire: An Island Grows by Lola Schaefer (my inspiration for terse verse!) Give Me Back My Bones by Kim Norman, A Leaf Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas, Dear Treefrog by Joyce Sidman, Woodpecker Wham and Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayles, Water is Water by Miranda Paul, Mama Built a Little Nest by Jennifer Ward. There are so many more wonderful examples, but these books give an idea of the wide range of successful approaches to lyrical nonfiction picture books.
RGL: This is your third book in a series – congrats on that! Your first two books – On a Gold-Blooming Day (autumn) and On a Snow-Melting Day (spring) – follow a similar poetic structure and rhyme scheme. Did you always envision this as a series and was it pitched/acquired that way? And, should we assume there is a fourth book with a summer theme in the works? (Please say yes!)
BS: I did not originally intend to write this as a series. But when Carol Hinz put out an open call for manuscripts for K-2 that could be illustrated with photographs, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes (who was in a small poetry critique group with me at the time) thought I should submit On a Snow-Melting Day. I almost ignored her suggestion, because I had pictured the book with illustrations, not photographs. Michelle later suggested in a blog interview that the first book should be followed up with other seasonal books. I have no idea if I would have thought of that on my own, so thank you (times two) Michelle! And writers, always listen to your critique-buddies–they often see what you cannot see yourself! Because Millbrook/Lerner sells primarily to the school market, there are no plans yet for a summer book. But who knows, maybe someday?
RGL: Lastly, what is one question no one has yet to ask you about the writing or making of this book that you are DYING to answer? (And what’s the answer? 🙂
BS: My hope is that youngsters who read On a Flake-Flying Day will want to head outside and explore nature in winter. So the question is, how can I encourage kids to explore outside and what might they find? First, dress for the weather! Next, go slowly and use your senses. Stop and listen to bird song, to the wind, to the crackle of leaves. Look for tiny trail-dragging tracks of a deer mice on the snow. Where do they lead? What other tracks or scat can you find? Can you make tracks that look like the hopping prints of a squirrel? Let your young explorer lead the way!
RGL: Thank you again, Buffy, for tolerating all my questions and a HUGE congrats on all your gorgeous books!
But WAIT! There’s MORE! Lerner has kindly offered to giveaway a copy of ON A FLAKE-FLYING DAY to once lucky winner! Simply comment on this post to enter. Open to U.S. mailing addresses only. Winner will be announced in my next post (Jan. 26th!)
ALSO, the winner of last month’s giveaway, winning a 30-min Zoom Ask-Me-Anything call with the fabulous Chelsea Lin Wallace is…..
Vijaya, please email me at RebeccaWrites4Kids.com and I’ll connect you with Chelsea for your prize!
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year everyone!