The Top Ten Picture Books Written by Nerdy Chicks Who I’ve Laughed With

Good books aren’t always written by good people. For example, Roald Dahl was rumored to be a terrible racist, and Charles Dickens threw his wife of 22 years out of their house, even though her youngest children were 9 and 6. But in the case of these Ten Nerdy Chicks, we’ve got great books coming from greater people. Here’s a Picture Book 10 for 10 that combines some of my favorite books with some of my favorite people.

boybotAme1. Ame Dyckman, Boy + Bot: One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun. But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don’t help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep. Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him?

BandVaudrey2. Audrey Vernick, Bogart and Vinnie:  When Vinnie, a crazy-happy dog, gets lost while visiting a nature preserve with his family, he finds comfort in the company of Bogart, a big, lazy rhinoceros. Vinnie loves his new friend, but Bogart would rather just take a nap. A friendship soon blossoms-even if Vinnie’s definition of “friendship” is very different from Bogart’s-and when word of their unique situation spreads, Bogart and Vinnie are a worldwide sensation! But as soon as their fifteen seconds of fame ends, what’s left is a bond even Bogart can’t ignore.

monstoreSAMSUNG CSC3. Tara Lazar, The Monstore: The Monstore is the place to go for all of your monsterly needs. Which is perfect, since Zack definitely has a monsterly need. The problem? His pesky little sister, Gracie, who never pays attention to that “Keep Out” sign on Zack’s door—the one he has made especially for her.

beesaaf4. Alison Ashley Formento, These Bees Count: How do bees count? The bees at the Busy Bee Farm buzz through the sky as one big swarm, fly over two waving dandelions, find three wild strawberries bursting with sweetness . . . As the children in Mr. Tate’s class listen, they learn how bees work to produce honey and make food and flowers grow. Bees count–they’re important to us all.

cpmmaya5. Courtney Pippin-Mathur, Maya Was Grumpy: Maya wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, tangled in her blanket, and in a crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood. She doesn’t want to color or wear her favorite shorts or go outside to play. What’s worse, she’s determined to share her grumpiness with everyone as she glumps, clumps, and thumps around the house. But when Maya growls at her grandmother, she graciously takes Maya’s mood in stride, and even has a solution: Gramma suggests a series of unusual activities that Maya will probably not want to do since she’s feeling grumpy—and then dismisses her own silly suggestions before Maya can reject them.

joyce cupcake6. Joyce Wan, You are My Cupcake:  A scrumptious board book, filled with sweet terms of endearment. This bite-sized board book is an ode to all the names we call our children: cutie pie, sweet pea, peanut, pumpkin. With a candy-colored palette and irresistible art with glitter and embossing, this is the perfect baby shower gift!

Magic-Brush-Yeh-Kat-9780802721792 297310_10150320631406460_1375238351_n7. Kat Yeh, The Magic Brush: Combining a heartwarming family story, a magical adventure, and a multilingual primer on Chinese language, The Magic Brush tells the story of Jasmine, a young girl who learns Chinese calligraphy from her Agong, or grandfather. As Jasmine learns how to paint the characters for dragon, fish, horse, friend, and more, she and Agong are magically transported to the wondrous world they are creating. But when Agong passes away, Jasmine must find a way for their special paintings to live on. Could her baby brother Tai-Tai be the key?

anne mariesleepover8. Anne Marie Pace, Vamipirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover: Before Vampirina can host her very first sleepover there are a few things she must keep in mind: be polite and offer her guests food (like blood pudding); plan some games like scavenger hunt (but keep the clues simple so no one gets lost); and don’t forget to dance! Vampirina may be a little nervous at first, but by following a few simple rules she will host the Best Sleepover Ever.

onster tiff9. Tiffany Mayro Strelitz, The Monster Who Lost His Mean: Everyone knows that the M in “monster” stands for MEAN. But what happens when a monster can’t be mean any more? Is he still a monster at all? One young monster’s attempts to live up to his name go hilariously awry as he discovers—with a little help from new friends—that it’s not what you’re called but who you are that counts.

dog gone leeza10. Leeza Hernandez,Dog Gone: When a playful pooch goes a little overboard with a stuffed animal and gets in trouble, he decides it’s time to run away. But being a “dog gone” isn’t as easy (or fun!) as it looks, and soon the pup misses his owner and home. Luckily, even though he’s made a mistake, his human best friend is always waiting with open arms.

Anne Marie Pace: Author and Award-winning Cookie Baker!

I met Anne Marie Pace the same place I met several of the Nerdy Chicks interviewed so far: at the Workshop for Writers at Chautauqua, sponsored by the Highlights Foundation. One of the best things about that week was connecting with others who took writing seriously. A writer who loves words, loves playing with words, and keeps working with words until she gets them right, Anne Marie was one of those writers.  And she does it while raising four children. To me, that is impressive and amazing. Three of Anne Marie’s picture books have been published and there are more to come! Her latest, Vampirina Ballerina is almost too adorable for words. It is the perfect treat for this Halloween!  Thanks so much for joining us today Anne Marie! 

You’ve got to be thrilled with the art in Vampirina Ballerina. The black and pink together is both stylish and genius! How do you feel that Pham’s illustrations enhance your words? Did you work together to decide on which images to use? Definitely, I’m thrilled.  LeUyen Pham’s work brings so much depth to the book.  We did work together more collaboratively than authors and illustrators are often able to, thanks to our editor Kevin Lewis.  Some of the visual humor was originally in the text, but we took it out of the text because Uyen’s art did the job without my words (an example would be Vampirina’s inability to see herself in the mirror).  But much of it is Uyen’s contribution.  My text had some small things in it that Uyen then developed into book-long threads; for example, I had the line “resist the temptation to turn into a bat,” and Uyen took that and ran with it from end paper to end paper.  I couldn’t be happier with the book.

I can see why!  It’s a great book.  Back when I met you, you were working on a middle grade novel.  Now you’ve had three picture books published. How did you have to change your mind set to write picture books?  Picture books and novels have many things in common, of course—the need for plot, characterization, and so forth.  You just have 5000 times more words in a novel, which has its pros and cons.  In my own work, I suppose that in my novels, setting tends to be very important, almost a character, if you will—but in picture books, setting is up to the illustrator.  Novels are so much lusher—picture books are spare.  I don’t think it’s a mindset as much as a skill set, and I acquired the basics from studying good picture books. Honestly, I still have a lot to learn.
I often tell writers that recognizing that they have more to learn is important to success. That’s probably one reason you’ve been successful! Now that you have several books out in the world, what do you think was the biggest obstacle to your achieving success? Oh goodness, to answer that I’d have to define obstacle and define success, because we all define those so differently.  Hmmm—how about this?  Letting life’s ordinary moments get in the way of writing, and worrying when life’s extraordinary moments get in the way are both obstacles I’ve needed to overcome.

In addition to writing, you’re a mom to four bright children. How does your family help with your writing process? They seem to understand that we are not always going to have a three-course dinner on the table. There is usually clean underwear.  That’s a joke.  There is always clean underwear.  You just might have to look for it on the dining room table, where there is no dinner.

It’s definitely hard (impossible maybe?) to be a published domestic goddess!  What is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick? I wanted to perfect my chocolate chip cookie recipe so I did a lot of reading and research on the chemistry of baking, then followed it with many, many trials.  I’m happy to say that the resulting cookie won a blue ribbon at the county fair.

Award winning chocolate chip cookies… maybe you are a domestic goddess after all! Here’s something we try to ask everyone: If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?  Well, since this blog is about NERDY chicks, I’d probably tell myself not to worry about trying out for cheerleading and to stay on the English Team.  Be true to yourself, Anne Marie!  I would also tell my middle school self not to curl those bangs under.  Ai yi yi, those were some bad bangs.

Do you have a personal “theme song,” perhaps one that speaks to your inner nerdiness? It’s not super-nerdy, but I’m very inspired by U2’s “Magnificent”:  “I was born to sing for you/I didn’t have a choice to lift you up/and sing whatever song you wanted me to.”

Very nice! I love your answers, Anne Marie! To find out more about Anne Marie, visit her website, or like her on FacebookAnd if you want to make a bat headband for your little Vampirina, Anne Marie shared  instructions HERE. 

Here’s a Happy Halloween Wish from Vampirina! You can see more Vampirina art like this on her Facebook page.