Wednesday, April 1, 2020

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch - Now Available

My latest picture book, She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch, is now available for sale!

She is the Queen. The matriarch.

She leads her daughters and their daughters.

Inspiring text and striking illustrations follow the empowering journey of an elephant matriarch as she leads her family through the wilds of Africa. With facts about African elephants on every spread and a message that will encourage young girls to be the trailblazers of their generation, She Leads offers an incredible story and an unforgettable tribute to the strength of a true leader.

Open your eyes, princess. One day you will lead.

So why should you buy this book?

  • A short, lyrical story carries the reader forward, and can be read alone for a swift bedtime read.
  • Nonfiction sidebars on each spread let you explore the complex world of the African Elephants.
  • Amazing artwork!!
  • Strong females make great role models.
  • Makes a great gift for the young animal lover in your life.

Where can you find it?

Editorial Reviews:

"This beautifully illustrated book has my two favorite things: nature and girl power. Its tender family story is paired, on each page, with facts about the matriarchal society of elephants, which means kids who love strict nonfiction and those who prefer a story line will both be satisfied. A must-have in every child's library."

- Heidi E. Y. Stemple, poet and author of Counting Birds: The Idea that Helped Save Our Feathered Friends

"A quietly powerful book about real girl power in the animal kindom. She Leads manages tobe both straightforward and moving, fact-filled and lyrical, and always firmly grounded in the power, nurturing strength, and beauty of the elephant matriarch and her legacy to those who will follow. Yumi Shimokawara's naturalistic illustrations bring the queen and her society to life, while June Small's main text offers the elegance of poetry, filled out by more information in the sidebars on each page. Ideal for story time, the classroom, or bedtime reading."

- Kathy MacMillan, librarian and coauthor of She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World

"With simple, yet lyrical text and stunning illustrations, She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch beautifully demonstrates the elegant grace and proud nature of these extraordinary animals for young readers."

- Lindsay Ward, author and illustrator of Don't Forget Dexter

"I am very impressed with the text, the illustrations, and the tone of the book on many levels. The illustrations are rich, the text is well-researched, and the story is one that many people will connect with easily. I am heartened and excited by the messages and information presented in regards to the wonderful social structure and the amazing behavior of these incredible creatures. Elephants have been role models for me in life for over twenty years, and I am in awe of them with every new fact that I learn and with every new insight into how they see the world and one another. She Leads captures that awe on many levels and sends strong and meaningful messages about the importance of family, leadership, and compassion."

- Mike McClure, Maryland Zoo general curator and elephant collection manager

Friday, December 13, 2019

Oh, You Make Children’s Books?: How to Answer Those Questions About Kid Lit from the Fam

As a children's author, I hear this all the time, but more frequently around the holidays and especially from family members. Writers and artists get asked this question and more and we aren’t sure how to respond. So, here are some of the scenarios we kid lit artists get and the potential responses you can use.

  • Don’t you want to write “real” books?

I get this more from self-proclaimed non-readers, which is odd in itself. But my typical responses are:

“Gosh no! Why would I want to do that?” – this is followed by a look of horror, as though they’ve asked me to skydive into an active volcano while blindfolded.

“I love kid’s books and nothing else could make me happier.” – Big smile, even when they obviously don’t get it.

“Mrph mble flrp…” - Pumpkin pie or hors d’oeuvres are great tools.

  • Oh, I’ve always wanted to write a picture book. Do you think we could collaborate/you could be my illustrator?
Obviously, I’m only an author, but I bet illustrators get this even more than authors. Possible responses:

“Here are my fees (Illustor’s) and did you know a picture book can take two years MINIMUM to produce? Also, I have about five WIPs right now and have no time.”

“I started out with just an idea too. You should write your story and if you are serious about traditional publishing, look into the SCBWI. I have too much going on currently to collaborate but I’m happy to point you to some great blogs/conferences/craft books you may like.”

*Here is where you see if they are truly interested in a long game or just ‘always thought it would be fun/easy.’*

“Hmrph bing mblp…” - That extra roll was just calling my name…

  • Why don’t you just self-publish? You could have your book out in a few hours.
I don’t think people realize that it isn’t quite as easy as they believe to self-publish picture books. Possible responses:

“You know when you self-publish, and do it well, you have to hire and pay an illustrator (if you are the author only), be the final editor or hire an editor, be your own sales person, marketer, art director, warehouse, distributor and it will be exponentially harder to get your books into chain stores and even indie stores still have to know you exist in order to buy your book. This takes a ton of time away from my creative time.”
-        At this point most people have stopped listening. But self-publishing, especially for picture books that need quality art, is WORK and it isn’t for everyone.

“I never wanted the sole responsibility of wearing all the hats a self-published author must wear. Plus, I was always scared that maybe my writing wasn’t as good as I thought it was. By getting through the many, many obstacles in traditional publishing, and working with professionals along the way, I know my work will be the best it can be.”
-        Again, sometimes they stop listening. Not everyone gets my passion for kid lit. And that is OKAY. I don’t always get their passion for cross stitch, hockey, that popular tv show they keep talking about.

“Worlm rmbl brmpth…” - This method may lead to a shocking belly ache. But those cookies were worth it…

  • So, you sold a picture book. When are you going to quit your day job?
The only response:


It is okay to be awkward and not sure how to answer. Some people are easy to talk to while others make you feel like you are under a spotlight.

Many of us artists are introverts and don’t want to talk about ourselves and our art. Others wave their nerd flag proudly.

Even if you don’t have a book out yet, if you want to talk about your art, your path, and your struggles, then go for it. If you want to avoid it, then play with the dog/cat/baby so you have an excuse for being distracted while others bombard each other with questions.

You can always offer to wash the dishes when you need to run away. Most relatives won’t follow.

Any other great responses to common questions?  Please keep if PG. We write for kids, you know.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Interview with Illustrator Claire Sedovic

Today we welcome illustrator Claire Sedovic. She is the amazing artist who brought the Odd Animal ABC's to life.  Thank you for joining us today. So, inquiring minds want to know...

How did you become the illustrator for Odd Animal ABC’s?

After quitting my job as a graphic designer for a major media company last spring, I began sending postcards featuring my art to potential publishers. Blue Manatee Press was one such publisher whose work I admired, so of course they received a postcard from me. A couple of months later I heard from Amy Dean (Editorial & Marketing Director at Blue Manatee Press) that she was looking for an illustrator for a manuscript she had just acquired and wanted to know if I would like to submit my work for consideration. Of course I said yes, and almost exactly a year later, Odd Animal ABC’s was published featuring my art!

I feel very lucky that Blue Manatee had that postcard! Have you always wanted to illustrate?

Indeed I have. As a child I often wrote and illustrated sequels to my favorite picture books or crafted my own original stories complete with detailed illustrations in marker or paint.

Can you describe your process of taking this story text and developing it. 

I must say I feel very fortunate that you and I were able to correspond as often as we did while I developed the illustrations for the text as I realize now that is not typical of the author/illustrator relationship. I think our collaboration succeeded because I was receptive to the illustration notes you offered, and you were willing to change the text in some instances that I interpreted it a little differently with my illustrations than you expected. As an illustrator, I see my role as someone who can visually fill the gaps in the story. And because this story text is all dialogue (and a lot of humor!) I felt like I had a lot of room to play. 

I started the process by reading the text over and over to get a good feel for the story. I then created thumbnail sketches to determine the flow and layout of the book. Once those sketches were approved I proceeded with the full scale art, but even then, I continued to make adjustments as the story evolved and I received feedback from you and Amy.

I've told lots of people how you helped shape this into a better book. Without some of your requests due to art, I wouldn't have my two favorite jokes in there! 

So there are 53 real animals (and one imaginary unicorn) in this book. Was the large cast of characters a problem?

I wouldn’t say the large cast was a problem, but it was certainly a challenge. I loved researching the different animals to ensure that I drew them accurately, but it took some time to figure out when and were certain animals should reappear in order to drive the narrative along. In some cases, this was already written into the text, but throughout the illustration process I took some liberties to add or omit for visual appeal and to help integrate the ABC letters into the illustrations.

I love the coloring of the letters themselves too. So what do you hope readers take away from this story?

I hope that the book widens kids’ understanding of just how diverse the animal kingdom really is. Of course I hope they laugh along with all the wonderful, and often weird critters as they travel from A to Z, but on a deeper level, I also hope that it sparks new curiosity about the natural world and a desire preserve and protect it for future generations.

That was my hope too. Now, a very important question,
 what is your favorite chocolate or dessert?

How about chocolate dessert?

Where else can readers find you and your art?

You can find more of my work on my website ( and follow me on Instagram @clairesedovic.

Wish you were on Twitter more. You are missing some major book love!  Thank you so much for giving life to these odd and amazing animals and for joining us on the blog. Best wishes that your illustrating career is long, prosperous, and full of happy readers!!

Friday, May 3, 2019

So You Have a Book Coming Out: Part Four: Taxes and Deductions

Upfront Disclaimer: I'm not a tax pro or lawyer or anything other than a writer trying to stay organized. This way, I have the information to give to my tax professional.

You, as a published author or illustrator, are now a business. That means there is some not-so-fun things we have to deal with so we can keep writing and creating.


Let's face it. Laws change, the forms are about a million words long, and who knows what we may be missing if you don't have a certified accountant in the family.

I have a certified public accountant. I think they are worth the money, not only for the time it saves me, but the relief from stress and anxiety I have that I may mess something up and having the IRS show up Men In Black style.

Whether you are a do-it-yourself-er, or you use a pro, you need to be organized all year long. Not just those first two weeks of April.

You don't need a fancy or expensive program. I use excel.

First: Do you have a home office that is solely used for your business as a writer or illustrator?
If so, this may be tax deductible. That means this little piece of creative heaven may save you a bit on your dues to Uncle Sam. But you have to keep track of some things:

  • Your home's TOTAL square footage and the OFFICE square footage. 
  • Electric Bill
  • Internet Bill
  • Gas Bill
  • Phone Bill

Then a percentage of you home's bills are what is actually deductible, based on how much space it takes. You have to have the totals for each month. It is easier to keep track of this monthly, rather than digging through old bills, or hunting for your gas company user name and password right before the tax deadline.

You can also deduct business related expenses. Keep ALL receipts and label and organize them. If you get audited, you want everything available and easy to find. I'm talking file folders or binders as opposed to shoe boxes.

Items to track for possible deductions:

  • Copies of your books for sales, promotional giveaways, and donations
  • Mileage for School Visits 
  • Food and Hotels for out of town School Visits or Presentations
  • Writer or Illustrator Organization Annual Dues (i.e. SCBWI)
  • Classes for continuing your education
  • Promotional materials (stickers, bookmarks, pins)
  • Website fees
  • Author/Illustrator Professional Photos (again, falls under promotional materials)
  • Office Supplies
  • Art Supplies (for illustrators)
  • Necessary Office Equipment: Computer- yes! That mini golf putter thing and fancy espresso maker-no!
  • Donations (if you donate a copy of your book, track what you pay, not the retail value.)

There is probably more that I haven't thought of, but hey, I'm new at this.

I keep everything in an excel spreadsheet in summary as well as a sheet for all I am paid:

  • Advances
  • School Visit Fees
  • Speaking Engagements
  • Royalties

Again, this is NOT a comprehensive guide. This is just stuff I've figured out on my own this year as a debut author. If you have any questions about your specific circumstances, I recommend finding a local tax pro. Preferably before next April.

So get organized and then get back to writing.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Author Interview with Giveaway: Gayle Krause

Today we have picture book author Gayle Krause here to tell us about her new book, Daddy Can You See the Moon. Gayle has also been kind enough to offer a picture book critique to one lucky reader.  

Thank you, Gayle, for joining me on Reading, Writing, and Reaching for Chocolate!

Thank you for hosting me, June.

Every reader loves to know, what inspired this story?
As former Early Childhood Educator, I taught Children’s Literature to prospective teachers as part of their training program for over thirty years. I also directed a Laboratory Pre-K, affiliated with my teaching course, in Goshen, NY. It was there, as I sat on the floor of the nursery school, reading countless picture books to the preschoolers, or acting out fairy tales as creative dramatic presentations that I became uniquely attuned to the young child’s mind.

These precious little guys struggle to make sense of the world around them, especially the adult world of their parents. Emotional situations like divorce and deployment affect these children in a way that most adults cannot see.

It was one particular little boy that was having a very difficult time accepting the time frame of his dad’s separation from the family. That came back to me years later and the end result is DADDY, CAN YOU SEE THE MOON?

What is your process like?
As I mentioned above, I taught high school students and college freshman and also ran a Laboratory Pre-K. Consequently, after spending 30 years with these kids, I tend to write at both ends of the spectrum. Picture Books or Young Adult.

So my process might be a bit unconventional. After I spend two years or so working on a novel, I switch gears and create rhyming picture books. Why rhyming? Because essentially, I have a YA voice, and the rhymes help keep my word count low. Also, I enjoy the challenge of meter, beats, alliteration, and story in a rhyming format.

What do you hope readers take away from this story?

In this book, children from military families can see that they are not alone in this incredible, perplexing moment when Mom or Dad has to leave the family. And non-military children can also share the family bond and love that strengthens this little boy. The moon may wax and wane, but the special bond between a young boy and his father never wavers. Since April is recognized as The Month of the Military Child, I have teamed up with OUR MILITARY KIDS to help support children and families of deployed soldiers. 10% of all royalties will be donated to OUR MILITARY KIDS.

That is amazing! What else are you working on?
I am currently working on a MG Fantasy trilogy with a boy protagonist that goes on fantastic adventures in a parallel world.

What is your favorite chocolate or dessert?
My favorite dessert is a combination of both….a chocolate ├ęclair

Thanks again for having me on your blog, June. If your readers would like to know more about my books they can find me at

GIVE AWAY: Gayle is giving one lucky reader a rhyming picture book critique. 
I’d like to offer a rhyming picture book critique of no more than 500 words to one of your followers. If they would kindly comment below and share this post on social media (including where they posted).


Thanks again for joining me on the blog and for your generous giveaway. Best of luck to all the readers. 

Happy Writing!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

So You Have a Book Coming Out: Part Three: Author/Illustrator Photos

Some people are naturally photogenic. No matter what they are doing or what they are wearing, every photo comes out like something in a magazine. I am not one of those people. I'm usually caught while talking with one eye half shut.

As a published author or illustrator, you are now a business. Your photo needs to convey a sense of professionalism as well as showing who you are. Writing thrillers? Maybe a dark and broody shot would work. Goofy humor? Colorful and full of light and laughter may portray you best.

If you can, hire a professional photographer. It is a business expense that you can write off at the end of the year. Or tell a loved one, all you want for your birthday is a 30 minute photo shoot.

Amateur Example: I took this photo with my really nice camera I bought on a Black Friday Deal a couple of years ago. We took like 30 shots and this is the only one I didn't hate.

Professional Example:

I paid for a 30 minute session. We met at an old library. She took a bunch of shots, sent me about 15, and I seriously like all of them. With her lighting, superior equipment and artistic eye, she made me look younger and like I'd lost 15 pounds. She gave simple instruction like, "chin out a little more," or, "lean forward slightly," or, "That yellow background is washing you out. Lets move over here."

This looks professional, flattering, and the high resolution means it will maintain its quality even when resized. This is important since you'll be sending this file to interviews and author/illustrator visits.

A few tips: Tiny print on your clothes doesn't always translate well on camera.

Some poses feel awkward but look great on camera.

Stop to relax you face after holding the smile for so long.

Call around to photographers. I don't believe the one I worked with advertised a 30 minute session, but when I explained what I needed she said a full hour session was unnecessary. Although, she started having fun with some shots and we did go a little over our time, but she didn't charge me extra.

Also, HAVE FUN! For that photo session, you are the star.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Publishing: The Good, The Bad, Your Perspective

You have a contract. Yay!

Plans and dates change…Crud.

My debut picture book was scheduled to publish on April 2nd. Due to some issues with the actual printer (no fault of the publishing house, machinery was being replaced) the date was pushed to the 16th and now to May 7th.

Luckily for me, the publisher is on top of things and we’ll still have books for all the events already scheduled.

As I told this news to friends and family, they got loud and frustrated on my behalf. But to all my authors and illustrators out there I have a word of advice.


Sure, plans changing stinks, but my book is still coming out. Shaking my fist at the sky and cursing the book gods won’t get it printed any faster. Getting upset doesn’t fix anything (although at times it is easy and even stress relieving to stomp your feet and grumble).

Publishing will be full of delays and changes. At school visits there will be technical difficulties. There may be bookstore visits with only one customer or festivals that get rained out. Things happen and you need to know this going in.

Roll with the changes and mishaps as best you can.

Now I have the opportunity, for all of my April visits, to let people know they are getting an exclusive. They can see and purchase Odd Animal ABC’s a month before anyone else. So those children at the school visits get to feel special. Those bookstore shoppers get the jump on the rest of the world. That is pretty cool.

It is all a matter of perspective.