I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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4 Qs + 4 Happy Book Birthday(s) = Diana Murray: Publishing #kidlit in a Pandemic, part 2

September 15, 2020

Welcome to Part 2 of Publishing #kidlit in a Pandemic!

Wooo-hoooo! It’s the Book Birthday of DOUBLE THE DINOSAURS, a Math Reader/ Step-into-Reading #STEM book by Diana Murray (Illus. Mette Engel /  Random House Books for Young Readers).

This is Diana’s FOURTH book released in 2020. 

2, 4, 6, 8, math with dinos is so GREAT! This Step 1 early reader will introduce the fundamentals of addition and the concept of “doubling.”

In part 1 last week, we helped celebrate three nonfiction picture books (+ one more) that released during these #shelterinplace crazy times.

In this post, we have FOUR questions for bestselling author Diana Murray about writing tips and launching her FOUR 2020 #kidlit titles.

Let’s get this pandemic Book Party started!

Happy Belated Book birthdays to… 


by Diana Murray, illustrated by Zachariah OHora/ HMH Books / March 2020

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“[S]nuggled-in vegetables and sweet, lilting text offer an effectively snoozy bedtime rhyme.”

Publishers Weekly

★ “In OHora’s sweet and funny acrylic art…. The childlike approach, appealing art, and relatable worm character…connect story and audience.”

The Horn Book, STARRED review


by Diana Murray, Illus. by Sydney Hansen/ Imprint/ February 2020

An Amazon Book of the Month (Feb 2020)

“Murray and Hanson have created what feels like an old classic that’s simultaneously fresh and sweet… A bedtime countdown rhyme for every little farmer.” ―Kirkus 


by Diana Murray, Illus. by Amber Alvarez / Imprint / May 2020

A fascinating look at dads in the animal world.—Kirkus

This heartwarming story depicts dads in the animal kingdom…Suitable for read-alouds and a solid choice for Father’s Day. —School Library Journal


4 Qs with Diana Murray

Q 1. What surprises did the illustrators bring to these books?

Diana Murray: One big surprise in DOUBLE THE DINOSAURS was the way Mette illustrated “double the RUMBLE!” She used a secondary meaning of this word, which added some fun tension. And I love that she used so many varieties of dinos! This was a very hard one to illustrate because of the sheer number of dinos that needed to be visible. I can’t believe she made it work so well.

In WILD ABOUT DADS, I was surprised (or maybe “impressed” is a better word) by how much emotion and warmth Amber brought out in the animals and by how lush the backgrounds were. She balanced factual accuracy with cuteness and love.

As for GOODNIGHT VEGGIES, when my editor asked me if I had any thoughts on an illustration style for the text, I said “something hip and modern, similar to the style of Zach OHora.” So first of all, I was surprised that Zach himself ended up being the illustrator! He created the main character (a worm) and the whole tunneling concept, not to mention the urban rooftop setting. None of that was in the text and it was all a pleasant surprise.

With FIVE FUZZY CHICKS, I could not believe how incredibly fuzzy and adorable the illustrations were. And I loved that Sydney made the chicks all different shades. It was such a thoughtful touch. I just assumed they’d all be yellow.


Q 2. You say that working in graphic design has made you a more visual writer. Can you explain this approach?  

Diana Murray: By visual writer I mean that I always have the illustrations and page turns at the forefront of my mind when I’m writing. Even when you’re not the illustrator, it helps to be very mindful of what the illustrations might end up being. Here are three important things to consider:

  1. Make sure there is variety from page to page. Think about how you can change the scene, the action, and/or the layout. Creating a dummy sometimes helps (although I often just picture it in my head). You don’t need to be an illustrator to make a dummy. It’s not something that will be final, but just something that will help you visualize as you write. For Double the Dinosaurs, I made a varied list of activities that might happen at the beach and a varied list of general dino activities. I thought about how to incorporate an interesting mix into the text, which could lead to varied illustrations.
  2. Create anticipation/excitement/tension with page turns. This is related to the variety I mention above. You can sometimes create an exciting page turn with an ellipsis. Throughout my new early reader, I repeat the phrase “Double the dinosaurs…” and then, on the next page, I reveal the outcome: “…double the STOMP!”, “…double the CRUNCH!”, “…double the SPLASH!”, etc. This builds anticipation, plus reader participation. Using rhyming text supports that even further, because the rhyme offers a clue about what comes next. 
  3. Let the illustrations tell part of the story. This is another good reason to visualize what the art will show, as you are writing. For example, in WILD ABOUT DADS, the text describes ordinary dads. They like to “go fishing”, “carry you on piggyback”, “dance”, and “(bring you) dinner”. Without the art, the reader might imagine their own dad. But the illustrations show an eagle, a dart frog, a crane, and a fox doing these things. That creates another layer of interest. Another example I often use is from my earlier book DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS. There is a couplet that reads: “They find a treasure to behold./A pile of loot worth more than gold!” The illustration shows a treasure chest full of books. Not using the word “books” in the text but then showing books in the art is more engaging than simply spelling it out. It lets the reader connect the dots.

Publishing in a pandemic…

Q 3. What has it been like, launching a book –or four–during the Pandemic? 

Diana Murray:  I don’t usually do launch parties, but I had planned to go to a bunch of festivals: Hudson, Montclair, Millbrook, Poughkeepsie, Warwick, Princeton, Maplewood, Chappaqua and Chesapeake. Those all got cancelled or moved online. I think Maplewood and Chappaqua are the only ones that got rescheduled to this fall. So hopefully, those are still on.

Making it happen…

Diana Murray: I did do a WILD ABOUT DADS reading and craft for the Montclair Book Festival via ZOOM, together with the illustrator, Amber Alvarez.

I also did an online reading of GOODNIGHT VEGGIES for Wellesley Books, MA. I incorporated some actual veggies (with googly eyes) into the reading, which was pretty funny.

I was supposed to do a reading and craft for FIVE FUZZY CHICKS at “Picture Book Palooza” in NJ but that also had to be rescheduled (tba). PB Palooza is a fun event held at the Cranford Public Library (all arranged by author Laura Sassi) where a bunch of authors and illustrators get together to read and do activities with kids. We had a great turn out last year. I had some other library readings scheduled, too, but basically, everything got cancelled. A handful of things happened online, but the turnout was much smaller. It continues to be a strange year!

Q 4. What can book friends do to support new releases in these crazy times?

Leave an Amazon review, please! It makes such a difference. Also, adding forthcoming books to your Goodreads list (or rating them there) is great. Both are FREE, and even a super short rating with a one-word “Enjoyed!” is much appreciated.

Let’s DO THIS, friends!

Diana’s wonderful books deserve our support!

To learn more about them, go to DianaMurray.com

and follow @DianaMWrites on Twitter and @dianamurrayauthor on Instagram.

Next week, we’ll talk to author Lauren Kerstein about her ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE SAY GOODNIGHT launch with Second Star To the Right, and what’s next in 2021!

Stay safe, friends.

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