Everywhere Babies

By Lisa Cucinotta

Reading to my kids is one of my favorite activities. I have loved it so much over the past six years of parenting that I recently started writing books for kids. Writing children’s books has made me think a lot more about what I love to read the kids. I’ve started noticing nuances about books like which have authors who also illustrate (I’m not all illustrator but admire those like Mo Willems who do both), whether the books rhyme or not, how long they are, etc. Most agents don’t accept rhyming books anymore (no idea why) but I’ve found that the vast majority of the books we own for littler kids all rhyme. I find it very soothing, personally. I also never realized how short many of the “longer” picture books Julia and I read together are, like Fancy Nancy or Pinkalicious. They have fewer words than you might think (418 and 680 respectively).

I’ve also begun to think about who writes the books the kids love.  There are very few books out of the hundreds that Julia and Luca own that I have paid attention to who the author is, surprisingly. Maybe other parents are more in tune with this, but its not something I think about much unless the books are part of a series and I want to buy more of them.  And even then I tend to think more about the series itself (like the ones I mentioned above) than I do about the author.

However I recently had a really special experience with Julia that made me want to reach out to the author of my favorite. When Julia was born my sister gave me a selection of books that were special to her and her kids. One of them was Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Reading it to Julia and Luca makes me happy.  It’s simple and sweet, and reminds me of both the commonalities of raising babies and their differences.

Each page starts with “Everyday, everywhere babies are….” and then goes into a different topic and all the different ways those topics are experienced.  Like “Every day, everywhere babies are fed – by bottle, by breast, with cups and with spoons, with milk and then cereal, carrots and prunes…” I love that a book for little kids says the word “breast” in it like its no big deal (because it’s not!) and also that they mention both breast and bottle feeding as being normal options (because they are!).

But back to my special experience with Julia. She really mastered reading in first grade, going from a struggling beginning reader to one that reads with enthusiasm and can infuse emotion into her storytelling.  It reminds me of myself actually – I was always really good at reading out loud, probably because I had a mother who was a children’s librarian.  I love seeing that quality in her because picking it up was such a struggle for her, especially as the youngest kid in her class.

On nights when I am home to put Julia to bed, she reads me a book and then I read her one.  She usually chooses Elephant and Piggy books (by the great Mo Willems, mentioned earlier) or a book like If You Give a Pig a Pancake. The other night, I think maybe I’d had a challenging day and she knew that, because she smiled big at me and told me she had a surprise and whipped out Everywhere Babies to read to me. She has outgrown interest in most baby and toddler books but she still keeps this one in her room.

She read it and I had a full circle mom experience. There were tears in my eyes as I watched my beautiful big girl read me this book like a champ.  I decided I had to write to the author and tell her. My hope is that someday parents and children will have special experiences with my books, and I would want to know that. So I found Susan’s website, which contained her email address along with the promise that if you write her she’ll write you back.  I figured it was worth a shot.

To my great surprise, Susan wrote me back the very next day.  I was totally fan-girling out over her response, which was amazing.  Here it is below, shared with her permission:

“Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for writing to me, and especially for sharing the story of how Julia read Everywhere Babies to you.  That brought tears to my eyes, too. 
You know writing is such a strange experience.  You work hard to make your book as good as you can (and in the case of a picture book the illustrator works hard, too). Then you send it out in the world and suddenly it no longer belongs just to you. It belongs to those who read it. You and your children are the other side of the equation and hearing from you…  Well, it certainly made my day and also inspired me to get back to my desk and finish the book I’m working on now.
So, again, thank you for writing.  Give Julia and Luca a hug for me!
All best,
Susan”

 

I’d love to hear from you on what books are your favorites to read with your kids! Feel free to respond to me here, on Facebook if we’re friends and now on Twitter where I am now writing @lisacucinotta

When life gets in the way

By Lisa Cucinotta

Here it is, the cliche blog post about how I’ve been too busy to write a blog post.  That’s not entirely true.  A person can always find time for anything that is a priority for them.  That’s why I have dramatically increased my time spent reading this year, and have gotten like three massages, yet I haven’t been able to “find time” for exercise since I was pregnant with Luca, ha.

One of the things I’ve been busy doing is parenting related, tangentially I suppose. I’ve written a children’s book.  It feels funny to write that down as it makes it seem more real.  But it’s pretty real at this point. I have written a kid’s book and am in the final process of editing it (I’m on draft 24 already) and am almost ready to start the query process to submit it to agents.

I wrote a kid’s book because I love to write, I love kid’s books, and I had something I really wanted to write about.  I have mentioned on this blog openly about having anxiety issues since I was a child.  As an adult, I’ve come to understand that my coping mechanisms for this anxiety were not tied enough to self-soothing, and relied a lot more on other people to fix things for me.  The intention with this book is to help little kids with anxiety think about ways they can help themselves.  The book is currently titled “Lulu Fox and the Fix-It Box” and I am really excited about its potential.

Imagine if Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes (I love all his books!) or The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn had a more kid driven solution than one supplied by a parent or adult. The first day of school can be scary, especially for an anxious kid who’s afraid of everything.  Thankfully Lulu Fox comes up with an idea – she can make a “Fix It” box to lock her fears away. Lulu wears the key to the box as a necklace to help remind her to be brave at school. The reader gets a front row seat as Lulu faces challenges that will test that bravery.

I have done a ton of research on the process of finding an agent, and it is supposed to be quite hard.  Even if you get an agent they then need to try and sell to a publisher.  So while I am hopeful that people will love Lulu as much as I do, it might take quite a bit of time before it sees the light of day as a book.  If I am unable to secure an agent I will go the self-publishing route, but that costs money vs. makes money (at least in the short to medium term) so fingers crossed that I find one!!

I am already working on my second book, this one about a little boy on the autism spectrum who loves music.  I’ve been having early versions read by those with experience with autism (either teachers or parents) to make sure I am capturing things accurately.

If you are interested in being a beta reader of either book, let me know.  Or if you are a fellow writer and looking to trade manuscripts, I’ve been having a lot of fun doing that with people all over the world, so let me know!  And please be patient, I have more mom stories in me to share with this blog, I am just on a slightly diverted path right now.