By Chana Stiefel
Recently, I had the good fortune of winning a manuscript critique with children’s author Miranda Paul through the 12 x 12 Picture Book Challenge. In addition to the critique (which was enormously helpful), we had a wonderful conversation about the importance of writing the books that are “true to you”—the books that come from your own life experience, your unique interests, and your heart.
Miranda has two new books out this year (check out TRAINBOTS & 10 LITTLE NINJAS, which arrives in stores August 9th). What are the keys to Miranda’s publishing success (besides being an all-around kind and generous person)? For starters, she stretches her creativity by writing in a variety of genres—both fiction and non-fiction. “Most of my books are a crossover between trade and school library,” Miranda says. “They are both educational and commercial. You can read my books at school or at bedtime.”
In addition, she describes her stories as “more than just books.” How so? After all, they look, feel, and smell like books (especially when you buy them fresh from the store). I decided to dig deeper into some of Miranda’s books to find out what sends them soaring beyond the book zone.
ONE PLASTIC BAG
Miranda’s debut picture book is the true story of Isatou Ceesay, a young woman from Njau, Gambia, who came up with a brilliant solution for cleaning up piles of plastic bags that were causing pollution, attracting harmful mosquitoes in pooling water, and choking livestock. ONE PLASTIC BAG is a gripping story. But what makes it “more than a book”?
WHOSE HANDS ARE THESE? A Community Helper
As the subtitle suggests, this book is more than an interactive read-aloud. It’s a guessing game! With lively rhyme, each alternating spread displays pairs of hands doing a specific task (sketching, healing, keeping score…). Readers are asked, “Whose hands are these?” The book works on many levels. Yes, it ties into lessons on careers, community helpers, and STEAM, but it also raises the stakes by adding suspense and fun! I can imagine kids reading the book at home or at school and having a blast creating their own unique books based on WHOSE HANDS ARE THESE?
WATER IS WATER
With gorgeous illustrations by Jason Chin and Miranda’s lyrical rhyme, WATER IS WATER teaches kids about the water cycle throughout the four seasons. Kid-friendly details like hot cocoa, snowballs, and sloshing in mud puddles are interwoven into this heart-warming book that softly drizzles the science about cycles in nature. Beyond being a book, it’s also a song by Emily Arrow! Listen here: https://youtu.be/vzJwNGo-7HY
Donna Cangelosi and Chana Stiefel are picture book critique partners & friends who are passionate about kids' books & are eager to share tidbits from their writing journey with other aspiring writers.