My Buddy Knows… Letters is an educational picture book that teaches children about the alphabet in a fun and playful way. What inspired you to write this book?
I was helping my high school aged daughter study for a chemistry test and we were using flash cards. Afterwards, I was marveling at how often we use flash cards to test our memory.
That got me thinking, “Why don’t we use flash cards for teaching early concepts?” My Buddy Knows series was born.
Fun fact: each of the “Buddies” in the books are named after my children.
I loved the art in this book. What was the art process like in putting this book together?
Surprisingly, all of the art in the books were acquired from a site that offers royalty-free images, approved for commercial use, free of charge.
It was a case study, of sorts, for my YouTube channel for authors, Keith Wheeler Books. I wanted to prove that you didn’t have to spend a lot of money to produce a book, if you focused on quality content and provided your reader with an amazing experience.
How does this book help young children with their alphabet comprehension?
The simple answer is that it makes learning fun. It’s like a game. Plus, as you turn the page, Josh(the “buddy” in the book) pops up in different places.
I can’t tell you how many parents tell me that their child loves to see where he’s going to pop up next.
This is volume one in the My Buddy Knows series. What are the other books in the series and what is the goal for the series overall?
There are currently 4 volumes in the My Buddy Knows series. They are:
My Buddy Knows Letters
My Buddy Knows Numbers
My Buddy Knows Colors & Shapes
My Buddy Knows Baby Animals
I’m also in the process of creating a spin-off series: My Buddy Knows Languages. I’m in the process of creating the first 5 books in the series:
My Buddy Knows Spanish
My Buddy Knows French
My Buddy Knows German
My Buddy Knows Italian
My Buddy Knows Japanese
Posted in Interviews
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Tilly and Torg New Kids at School is a wonderful children story about two monsters that are intrigued by a yellow school bus out their window and decide to find out where it’s taking all the children. They soon find out that the bus is going to a place called school. Tilly and Torg meet many nice people at school learn all about the things that go on there.
This is a wonderful children’s story to read to any child that is starting school and worried, or interested in, what happens there. As Tilly and Torg go through a full day of school they, like many kindergarteners, find themselves surprised and confused at some of the things that go on, but all the while they are open minded and ask questions. The art in this book is cute and filled with hidden gems, like the book Tilly and Torg carry around “Monster Rule Book For Living With Humans”, that beg for a second read through. The books is suitable for new readers or for parents to read to children as the art will keep the kids plenty busy as parents read them the story.
Although the art was cute and fitting, I thought the text could have been bigger or bold, which would have helped it stand out more when the text was on top of the images. This story offers so many opportunities for parents to discuss the different aspects of school with their kids. I didn’t realize that going to school comes with its own lingo; like ‘lost and found’ or ‘time for the bell’, and this book helps explain what these terms mean. At the end of the book is a little quiz that helps with reading comprehension and there is also a vocabulary list that is helpful for kids to review.
With beautiful art, cute monsters, and an easy to understand story, I think this book is a must read for any child that is about to start school.
Pages: 24 | ASIN: B07H52WP2V
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Frolicking Friends by Karen Leis Welsh is the story of a little boy who goes on a search for all of his animal friends. All of the animals have disappeared and he can’t find them anywhere. He searches high and low for mostly creepy, crawly creatures. The book is simple and whimsical and best suited for early readers. This book reminded me of Dr. Seuss books with sentences that are short and sweet with a repetitive rhyming style accompanied by cartoonish illustrations.
This would be a great book for parents or teachers to read with children, pointing out things in the pictures as you read. This is a helpful teaching aid in matching words with pictures. All too often my students struggle with words and feel overwhelmed or discouraged. This book would be a relief from that, and would be a useful building block for harder stories. It would be a good base level to work from.
Kids will enjoy the somewhat exaggerated, adventurous style of the illustrations. I didn’t notice until I flipped back through the book a second time that there were some subtle hints in the pictures. The sky is gradually clouding up in the backgrounds of the pages. With minimal words, the illustrations play a big part. I like that the lines of the illustrations are a little rough around the edges. Crooked, imperfect lines add to the whimsical nature of the book.
I work in an elementary school, and can totally see it being a hit in our Pre-K and Kindergarten classes. Repetition and rhyming are good for building confidence in very young beginning readers. It’s sing-song style will have little readers reciting the entire book in no time.
Pages: 44 | ASIN: B0792XDRYJ
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Christmas with Snowman Paul is a heartwarming story showing empathy and helping others. What were some important themes you wanted to capture in this book?
I wanted my story to resonate with themes that address the true meaning of the holiday season such as friendship, inclusion, and family. The appeal of these values is in many ways near universal. My hope was that the story will raise questions such as: What does it mean to be a best friend? How does it feel to be excluded on a major holiday? Should we try harder to come up with imaginative solutions to problems of exclusion which seem, at first sight, insoluble? At the same time, I tried to address these themes with a fresh perspective and in a gentle, engaging and humorous way.
Ultimately, this is a simple story that encourages children of all ages to be sensitive to the needs of those who feel lonely and have no one to celebrate with.
The illustrations in this book are fantastic and serve to compliment the story. What was the art collaboration like with Joanna Pasek?
Collaborating with Joanna Pasek has been sheer joy from the very beginning. What I admire most in Joanna’s work is her unmatched ability to capture the emotional core of our key characters. The dog, for instance, is a key character that did not appear in my original text and was entirely Joanna’s creation. As an author, I always know that Joanna will find the best ways to match the narrative with compelling images which do not only illustrate the stories but also compliment them in new exciting ways. This holds true even in cases where text requires her to perform very difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible, illustrations. Click this link http://bit.ly/2ARLuE7 to see Joanna’s magic in action.
The story is told in rhyme. Do you find kids learn language easier with rhymes?
Most definitely! Rhyme is one of the most effective ways to install the love of reading at an early age. It helps keep attention, enhance retention and enrich vocabularies. Children love rhymes because they are musical and amusing and because they help them anticipate what is coming next. The timeless appeal of nursery rhymes, for instance, can be explained by these attributes. The instinct to rhyme was with me from a very early age but, I think, it comes naturally to most children.
What is the next Snowman Paul story you have in the works?
First, I would like to encourage Snowman Paul friends to check out the other nine volumes already published in the Snowman Paul series (https://author.amazon.com/books). But there are many other new adventures in store for Snowman Paul some of which are already written and eagerly awaiting their turn to be published. In addition, Joanna and I are just about to come out with a new picture books series titled “Yara, the Jungle Girl”. If you like Snowman Paul, you are likely to fall in love with Yara!
Join Snowman Paul on this heart-warming and humorous Christmas Eve adventure!
What would you do if your beloved snowman told you that he feels sad about being left out in the cold while you and your entire family are celebrating a joyous Christmas Eve inside? Can Dan figure out a way to make Snowman Paul’s Christmas just as unique as his? Read this heartwarming and humorous Christmas story to find out
The Day that A Ran Away is an adorably witty story about the letters of the alphabet deciding not to show up. Do you write your stories with children in mind first, or parents and teachers?
I always write my stories to be enjoyed by children first. Even though the book has a primary purpose of teaching the alphabet to children, I wanted it to be fun – something they would enjoy reading.
This is a very cute idea, how did this idea develop and change as you were developing the story?
I really began the story with the idea of making a simple concept picture book into something more of an adventure. Thankfully the first few lines of the book came together quite quickly which made the presentation of the alphabet a bit more straightforward. Essentially, Jet is caught by his teacher without his homework – something that students are prone to do at some point of their school life. However Jet’s excuse is quite imaginative as he talks about each letter’s frustrating escape.
It may sound strange, but with the trajectory of the story in place, the story actually flowed quite well. In the end there weren’t any major changes required. I know – bit of a boring story!
The art, as always, is very good. What was the art direction you wanted in this book?
I think my biggest priority was having all the scenes linked together as Jet walks to school. So each page connects with the last and foreshadows the one to come. In addition, I wanted each character to be made up of a color that begins with its respective letter (ever heard of Xanadu Gray), and for there to be a number of objects in the illustration that begins with the same letter for children to find.
Overall, I described each scene to Lenny and she turned them into something spectacular. She even added a few of her own Easter eggs which was fantastic! I’m very lucky to have an illustrator that not only understands my thinking, but knows my entire approach.
I loved how each letter has its own look and feel. Was this something that you brainstormed with Lenny Wen or did you already have ideas for each letter?
I agree, the letters came out looking great! No, all credit belongs to Lenny for the look and personalities of each letter. The only direction I had in this respect was the color of each letter and the basic anthropomorphic requirement. Lenny came back with the idea of giving each letter a connection to something children could identify (i.e. ‘A’ being an astronaut), as well as an emotion (‘arrogant’).
Master Jet has forgotten to complete his homework… or has he? Jet’s teacher is surprised to find that instead of the alphabet, his page is completely blank. Jet tries to explain that it really isn’t his fault. After all, how can he help it, if none of his letters want to stay on the page!
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Be Happy to Be You is a cute children’s story about being happy with who you are. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?
Children are the inspiration for my stories; the children I have taught and my three grandchildren. Joe (6 years), Harry (4 years) and George (10 months). Children are individuals and they are all different with their own characteristics and strengths. I strongly believe that they should be happy to be themselves.
The art in this book is well done and very cute. What was the art direction and collaboration like between you and Jan Dolby?
Having submitted my book to MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, I was introduced to Jan Dolby as a possible illustrator for my work. I was delighted with her drawings; her pictures were a perfect match for my story and her designs for my Baby bird were exactly as I imagined them. I hope that she and I will continue to work together on future Baby bird books.
This story did an exceptional job of driving home the idea of being happy with yourself. Why was this an important book for you to write?
As an Early Years teacher, I understand how important it is that young children are instilled with a sense of their own worth. A positive sense of self is, in my opinion, the greatest gift we can give any child. They need to be proud of their own unique achievements and embrace their strengths. This message is at the heart of my book. Using picture books, we can provide children with strategies to cope with possible problems they may face and offer them opportunities to discuss their feelings with a trusted adult.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My second book, “On Our Way to School,” is due to be published later this year by MacLaren-Cochrane. This is the story of Joe’s journey to school with his mother. Unfortunately for Joe, he forgets things that he will need for the day; his bag, his book, his coat etc. Each time he realises that he has forgotten something, he has to return to his house and set off for school again.
I have recently completed a second book featuring Baby bird, “The Lonely Bird”. In this story, Baby bird is lonely and he sets out to find a friend. Baby bird is unsuccessful it seems…. or is he? I have written quite a few stories but these have not yet been submitted for publication.
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B.C.R. Fegan’s Don’t Ever Look Behind Door 32 takes young readers on a journey through the magical Hotel of Hoo where Mr. Nicholas Noo gives his first-ever guests constant reminders to avoid, at all costs, door number 32. Behind each door leading up to 32, guests are treated to many surprises, some creepy and some quite humorous. Entertaining rhymes help light the way through the castle-like establishment as both the readers and the guests of the hotel meet and greet a bevy of characters who have taken up residence behind the first 31 doors. What lies behind Door 32? I’ll never tell!
I really love Fegan’s books for young readers. Lenny Wen, illustrator, creates some of the most vivid and striking images you will find in children’s literature. Wen gives his characters amazingly expressive eyes whether they are screaming in terror at ghosts cooking roasts, doing a double-take at a paintbrush-wielding elf, sneaking peeks at tea-drinking monsters, or (my favorite) marveling at miniature giants.
This particular tale takes on a Halloween feel and serves as a fabulous book to read aloud during October or as part of a monster-themed unit for elementary grades. As a third grade teacher, I can see using this book with my students to study rhyme, compare and contrast the findings behind each door, or as an inspiring writing prompt. The possibilities are as endless as the number of creatures housed behind each of the doors in the Hotel of Hoo.
Fegan does an excellent job of periodically reminding the reader that Door 32 is somewhat of an enigma and, possibly, the most feared of all doors in the Hotel of Hoo. Suspense builds throughout the book as the second-person narrative draws young readers into the different rooms, page by page, and treats them to a fantastic assortment of zombies, ghosts, wizards, and many more creatures of lore.
Fegan and Wen are, book by book, mastering the kiddie lit genre. With each successive book, their plots and accompanying illustrations take on more depth and even more vibrant characters. From the very first pages, this one has the feel of a classic in-the-making.
Pages: 36 | ASIN: B078VSML8V
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Same Inside, Different Outside is a wonderful children’s book that teaches biology and promotes diversity. Why do you think this is an important message to teach children?
I’m a nursing professor and one of the courses I teach is on Culture and Cultural Concepts which has certainly changed my worldview. I thought I had a good understanding of the various cultures and their beliefs and practices, however, one of the big lessons I learned was that becoming culturally competent is a journey that can take a lifetime. This made me realize that we need to teach children at a very young age to celebrate their uniqueness yet understand how in many ways we are all very similar. As a nurse, I also believe that children need to learn about the inside and outside of their bodies and although some of the concepts may be difficult for a younger child it is never too early to start introducing concepts that can be built upon as they complete their educational journeys.
I loved the pictures in this book. What was the art direction like?
Thanks, I loved the pictures, too. I worked very closely with my illustrator. Initially, I placed notations throughout the manuscript detailing my ideas for the illustrations and where they should be placed. Xavier, of course, used his creative and artistic abilities to bring the illustrations to life. It was fun to collaborate with him on this project and we really worked well together. Final edits were completed based on the input of the Waldorf Publishing team which certainly strengthened the book.
What do you hope young readers take away from your story?
First, and foremost I hope the readers enjoy the story and want to read it over and over again. Secondly, I hope they begin to understand that although we are unique and look different on the outside we are also very similar, especially on the inside. Lastly, I hope they begin to understand how some of the major parts of their bodies work. And that skeletons are really not scary and are somewhat like superheroes because they protect all of our insides.
Will you be writing more kids books that tackle other social issues?
Yes, although I’m currently working on the second pug book I’m also in the early developmental stages of inviting the readers back to Emma’s kindergarten class where I will address other social issues that help children to understand that although in some ways we are very similar it’s okay to be different.
Today is a very exciting day for Emma’s kindergarten class. Emma, Robert, and the rest of the student’s don t understand how they can all look so different on the outside, but look very similar on the inside. So Dr. Shaw is coming to visit, and she’s bringing Mr. Bones, who is a real life-size skeleton. Mr. Bones is going to help Dr. Shaw teach her lesson about the human body. Dr. Shaw has also brought a cool body screening machine with her so the children can see what their insides look like.
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