The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Carolyn Leiloglou and Review of Library's Most Wanted + a

I believe our children are shaped by the books they read.

~ Carolyn Leiloglou

Carolyn Leiloglou (lay-LAW-glue) lives with her husband and four kids in San Antonio, Texas, home to the Alamo and the world’s largest pair of cowboy boots. Carolyn was a finalist for the 2018 Katherine Patterson Prize, and her poems and stories have been published in magazines around the world including Ladybug, Clubhouse Jr., and Highlights.

Carolyn is the author of the chapter book Noah Green, Junior Zookeeper series illustrated by Jay Guida (2018). Her debut picture book, Library’s Most Wanted, released Monday.

Welcome Carolyn, thank-you so much for stopping by to talk about your newest picture book and writing.

It’s great to be here, even if it’s just virtually (like basically everything else these days).

ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)

CAROLYN: Maybe it’s cliché, but I’ve been writing since I could sound out words, which incidentally means I’m a horrible speller. I wrote lots of poems growing up and attempted my first novel in fourth grade. But around middle school, I lost confidence in my ability to write and didn’t really pick it up again until I was married with kids of my own.

I always dreamed of writing middle-grade novels, and I still hope to do so, but picture books have captured my heart. There’s something so satisfying about puzzling out the heart of a story and making it sing.

Before coronavirus, I had a dedicated afternoon a week to write while my kids, who I homeschool, were at a drop off PE program. But now that we’re home all the time, I find I’m actually writing more. I try to write most afternoons or evenings.

That's an interesting, and I'm sure a welcome change. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I actually just discovered this fact a few years ago, but apparently my parents almost named me Francis (my Dad’s middle name). They were going to call me Frannie. No offence to any Francis out there, but I’m eternally grateful they chose Carolyn instead. I’ve always liked my name.

Thanks for sharing that fun fact! What inspired you to write Library's Most Wanted?

Most of my picture book ideas start out with a clever title or turn of phrase. This one was no different. The original title was Library’s Most Wanted List. I puzzled out the story from that seed.

I like the idea of starting with a title. How different was it to write Library's Most Wanted from writing Noah Green, Junior Zookeeper and the Garage Sale Pet?

They were very different! Picture book stories not only have to be simple and concise; they also have to be beautifully and/or cleverly written. To achieve this, you have to revise over and over and over again. And then when you think you’re done; you get feedback which leads to more revision.

With chapter books, it’s all about the story. You don’t want your language to get in the way. Most chapter book readers are just developing their reading skills, so part of my revising was making sure none of the sentences were too long or unclear. But the story itself can be longer and a little more complicated than a picture book, which can be lots of fun to develop.

Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?

I have lots! I don’t really remember what my favorite picture books were, but once I was a reader, The Trumpet of the Swan was my first favorite book. After that, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Redwall series, and the Spirit Flyer series were my favorites. Basically, I loved to read fantasy.

I'm unfamiliar with the Spirit Flyer series. Thanks for the recommendation. Is there something you want your readers to know about Library's Most Wanted?

Sure, I think the heart of the story, for me, is about valuing people over things. Not that I’d expect a kid to be able to articulate that after reading, but I hope, in their hearts, that’s the message they’re receiving.

I think that comes through. How long did it take from first draft to publication for Library's Most Wanted? What was the hardest part? The easiest?

It took just over four years for Library’s Most Wanted to go from an idea to a book, which is incredibly fast in this industry. I think the hardest part was, when I felt it was polished and ready, I took it to a conference for feedback and learned it wasn’t ready at all.

I’m not sure there are any easy parts to writing, but the most fun part was probably trying to incorporate lots of fun western language into the manuscript.

Word play can be so fun, and complex, to get right. What has been the most frustrating aspect or period of time as a children’s writer for you? Any advice for unpublished and/or un-agented authors?

The most frustrating part is all the waiting. That’s both before and after you are agented, before and after you sell a book. The waiting part doesn’t change. The most frustrating period was when I felt I was ready but still hadn’t found an agent/publisher.

The best advice I have is invest the time and persevere! And find a critique group. I found mine through the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge, which I would highly recommend to any aspiring picture book writer. It’s a great community.

Great advice, especially since critique groups and 12x12 can also help with the waiting. Do you have a favorite spread in Library's Most Wanted or an “ah ha” moment when you first saw the illustrations?

Text © Carolyn Leiloglou, 2020. Image © Sarah Pogue, 2020.

The illustrator, Sarah Pogue, did such a wonderful job! One of my favorite moments is when Libby has run everyone out of the children’s section, and the library is ghost town quiet. In the illustration, Libby is reading The Lone Ranger and there’s a tumbleweed rolling by, both of which were the illustrator’s ideas. My other favorite illustration is the title page where Pogue has included a wanted poster with Libby the Deputy on it. She really brought the story to life!

I do love all the little extras that Sarah included in her illustrations. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

My next book slated for publication is Noah Green Junior Zookeeper, Save the Cave. It’s about bats, which feels a little ironic, but maybe they need some extra love after being blamed for the coronavirus. That should be out this fall.

We'll have to keep an eye out for that. What have you learned from your journey as an author?

Persistence and patience, though I’m definitely not great at the patience part! This career is all about putting in the time and not giving up!

What is your favorite animal? Why?

This question is impossible! I love animals! I’d probably say narwhal (I liked them before they were cool). They seem like a fantasy creature. But I have to include my runners up, which are all pretty magical in their own way: okapi, tapir, leafy sea dragon, and pangolin.

What a great list of animals. Thank you, Carolyn for stopping by and sharing with us. It was wonderful to chat with you.

To find out more about Carolyn Leiloglou, or get in touch with her:

Website: http://www.carolynleiloglou.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolynleiloglouauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/housefullbkwrms

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/housefullofbookworms/

Be sure to comment below for an entry in the giveaway.

Review of Library's Most Wanted

It's fun to find books that employ unusual combinations. Pianos on the beach, a bear playing a piano, or a dinosaur in Kindergarten.

This one combines the wild west - with its deputies and wanted criminals - and libraries. An interesting premise of unusual things to combine. The interesting word play, western illustrations, and look at the purpose of a library combine to make this a really fun book.

Library's Most Wanted

Author: Carolyn Leiloglou

Illustrator: Sarah Pogue

Publisher: Pelican Publishing (2020)

Ages: 3-8

Fiction

Themes:

Wild west, libraries, reading, and love of books.

Synopsis:

Libby longs to be a great librarian like her aunt Nora, and it just chaps her hide when kids vandalize books. She hangs up Wanted posters to drive the "outlaws" from her "territory." But when she realizes that a librarian's real job isn't protecting books but connecting them with readers, she must find a way to lure them back.

Opening Lines:

When Aunt Nora asked her

to be deputy librarian, Libby

took her job very seriously.

She stink-eyed a boy returning a

dog-eared novel.

She pried a board book from the

clutches of a gnawing toddler.

What I liked about this book:

Getting to be a deputy "anything," especially when it includes a badge, would be a dream job for many kids. And Libby is determined to make her Aunt Nora proud by being the best "library deputy" ever. But when the kids mangle the books and channel a twister in the Wild West book display, she decides the books need defending. And she's the deputy to do it.

Text © Carolyn Leiloglou, 2020. Image © Sarah Pogue, 2020.

So, as a "quick draw" and "fast as a rattler," Libby creates wanted posters of the offending kids. I love Sarah's addition of the names - "The Juicebox Bandit," "The Crayon Kid," and "Wild Dog Desperado." Despite their excuses, or denials, Libby rounds them all up and shoos them out the door.

Text © Carolyn Leiloglou, 2020. Image © Sarah Pogue, 2020.

While she's successfully protected the books, Libby discovers that a library without readers is "quieter than a ghost town." If you missed it, check out this image in Carolyn's interview above with the tumbleweed rolling through the empty library. But when Libby helps a young reader find a book on cowboys that he treasures, she begins to realize the true purpose of a library.

Sarah Pogue does a great job of getting the reader into the western mindset with her cover image of Libby with her deputy's badge and the cactuses and tumbleweed on the copyright and dedication pages. Her sandy brown and muted colors created a perfect southern U.S. feel and Libby's plaid shirt & cowboy boots are the oil on the saddle. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

It's a fun story caulked full to the brim of western slang and loads of clever word play, both in the text and the illustrations. This book will appeal to cowgirls, cowboys, booklovers, and those who enjoy corralling readers.

Resources:

- write a list or draw a picture of what you like about your library.

- create a couple of wanted posters of your own, for the library or around your house.

- at the end, Libby creates friendly wanted posters. What would your friendly wanted poster look like?

- create a manual (or list) of a librarian, or deputy librarian's, job.

- what is your favorite display, event, or summer reading program at your library?

Be sure to comment on this post for an entry in the giveaway. If you let me know where you share it, I'll add additional entries.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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