Picture Book Writers: January Means Storystorm!

What’s the best thing about the New Year?

It is time for Storystorm at Tara Lazar’s blog!

Storystorm is one month of inspirational blog posts to help children’s book writers generate new story ideas. Although to register and win prizes you must sign up during January, the posts are available all year around. Hop on over any time you need a creativity boost. And be sure to check out posts from previous years as well.

Are you going to take part in 2023?

Big Bear and Little Fish @LernerBooks

Wishing a “Big” happy book birthday for Sandra Nickel’s newest picture book Big Bear and Little Fish, illustrated by Il Sung Na.

Big Bear wants to win a teddy bear at the carnival, but instead she ends up with Little Fish. She has very fixed ideas about what Little Fish can be and do, and she doesn’t think Little Fish can “measure up” as a friend. Will Little Fish be able to change her mind?

The illustrations are full of subtle delightful details. Children will probably notice some of them, like the fact Little Fish has books in her fish bowl (a lovely nod to books and reading). Perhaps less obvious are the changes in size of Big Bear and Little Fish from spread to spread, which shows “Big” and “Little” can be relative.  To me, the vegetation outside Big Bear’s house resembles seaweed shapes. Is that to emphasize that Big Bear and Little Fish’s environments are not that different?  Let me know if it struck you, too.

All in all, Big Bear and Little Fish is a gentle and very timely reminder that friends may come in unexpected packages. Share a copy with a new friend today!


Activity Suggestions:

Visit Sandra Nickel’s Resources page for a Big-Bear-sized collection of activity sheets to accompany the book.

Sandra Nickel is an award-winning author of picture books. She is honored to be the winner of a Christopher Award, the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Crystal Kite Award, a two-time winner of the Katherine Paterson Prize for picture books, and a finalist for the Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction for Younger Readers. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has presented workshops on writing for children and young adults throughout Europe and the United States. When at home in Switzerland, Sandra loves ambling and rambling and eating carrot muffins just as much as Bear and Fish do. To learn more about Sandra, visit her fabulous website at https://sandranickel.com/.

Il Sung Na was born in Seoul, South Korea. In 2001, he moved to London to pursue a BFA in Illustration and Animation at Kingston University, where he discovered a passion for children’s books. He completed his MFA Illustration Practice at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art) in 2015. Il Sung has illustrated several books including Wild Peace, My Tree, and ZZZZ: A Book of Sleep. Currently based in Kansas City, Il Sung teaches illustration courses at KCAI (Kansas City Art Institute) and works on new books.
Instagram: @ilsungna

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 4 – 8 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Carolrhoda Books ® (September 6, 2022)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1728417171
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1728417172

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Metafiction in Picture Books

Recently I  caught a webinar featuring author Carrie Tillotson discussing her funny and fabulous picture book, Counting to Bananas: A Mostly Rhyming Fruit Book, illustrated by Estrela Lourenço.

(*Amazon Affiliate link- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

During the talk, Carrie mentioned that she had heard that there isn’t as much of a market for metafictional picture books. Even though the banana in her book talks to the audience, she ignored that advice and submitted anyway. Obviously, someone thought metafiction would sell perfectly well because now she’s been asked to do a sequel.

I have to admit, however, a talking banana didn’t quite fit my mental picture of metafiction. I always considered it to be a writing about a book within a book, or a talking about or making a movie within a movie. A banana talking to the audience would be “breaking the fourth wall.” Is that metafiction, too? Time to do some research!

What is metafiction?

Turns out that metafiction is any art that refers to itself as an artificial construct (as fiction). Characters talking to the reader or changing the path of the work is one way to do that. A book within a book is another way.

Darcy Pattison has a whole list of the ways picture books may be metafiction.

In There Are Cats In This Book by Viviane Schwarz, both the cat characters and the narrator break the fourth wall and talk to the reader. It is classic metafiction.


What about nonfiction? Can you use metafiction techniques and still call a book nonfiction?

Because by definition using this technique calls attention to the fact the work is fiction, this can raise some difficulties. Let’s see how some authors have handled it.

1. In No Monkeys, No Chocolate, by Melissa Stewart, Allen Young and illustrated by Nicole Wong (previous review) has a straight nonfiction main text, but two cartoon “bookworms” give a running side commentary throughout the book.

Consensus? Most people would probably still call this nonfiction, or possibly creative nonfiction.

2. In both Redwoods and Coral Reefs (review at Growing with Science) by Jason Chin, a child reads a nonfiction book, but gets pulled into a fictional, imaginative setting. This is the “book within a book” sort of metafiction, although Darcy Pattison also calls it a “disruption of time and space.”

Consensus? Most people would probably call this informational fiction.

3.  Flower Talk: How Plants Use Color to Communicate by Sara Levine and illustrated by Masha D’yans (previous review at Growing With Science) features a cranky purple cactus narrator talking directly to the reader.

Consensus? The fictional talking cactus narrator is so integral to the story that this one is also informational fiction.

Some people like their nonfiction pure and unadulterated, but more and more books are tugging at those boundaries.


What do you think? Have you read any good examples of metafiction picture books lately?

#Kidlit Smitten with Kittens

For a few minutes of quiet reading enjoyment, try the picture book, Smitten With Kittens by the married team of  Florence Minor and Wendell Minor.

Built around a gentle rhyming text,

Who isn’t smitten
with a kitten’s sweet mew
and all the cute things
that kittens do?

and delightful graphite on paper and digital illustrations of kittens playing and napping, this picture book also includes 10 “Fun Facts” about taking care of and enjoying kittens in the back matter.

Smitten with Kittens would make lovely bedtime reading as well as a useful guide to have on hand before adopting a new kitten. Curl up with a copy today!


There’s a peek inside and a free coloring sheet to download at Charlesbridge.

Reading age ‏ : ‎ 3 – 7 years
Publisher ‏ : ‎ Charlesbridge (March 8, 2022)
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1623541670
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1623541675

Disclosure: An e-ARC was supplied for review purposes by the publisher, Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.