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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Cheers to summer, catching up on #kidlit, #gratitude, and late bloomers = An Inside View of #AuthorLife.

June 18, 2024

Happy almost Summer! Feels like the perfect time to catch up on #reading, doesn’t it? Today we chat with #kidlit authors Benson Shum and Megan Hoyt and share some very cool picture books you may have missed. I guess you could say this is an inside view of a moment in our crazy wonderful #kidlit journeys.

Have you seen their books?

We celebrated Benson Shum’s IMAGINE YOU AND ME (Dial Books) on the blog when it released in January. (6 Qs with Benson Shum). It received some lovely reviews– from BCCB, for example–before its Book Birthday:

“Shum crafts a narrative that tenderly revels in the emotional support and the exciting play an imaginary friend can provide, and the torn, nostalgic feelings of growing apart from one’s make-believe pals . . . A loving meditation on friendships new and old, found on the playground or playing pretend, Randall and Parker’s adventure is sure to be a hit with shy bears and daring dreamers alike.” 

And recently, it received a STARRED REVIEW from SLJ:

“Few picture books ring so true in so few words. A near tearjerker for adults who’ll remember leveling up to a new group of friends; young readers will be encouraged to reach outside their comfort zone.”

Interior illus. from IMAGINE YOU AND ME, text and art by Benson Shum (Dial Books)

Before its release last October 2023, Megan Hoyt’s KATI’S TINY MESSENGERS: Dr. Katalin Karikó and the Battle Against COVID-19 (Illus. Vivien Mildenberger / Quill Tree ) received some terrific reviews.

“Hoyt stresses perseverance in this moving biography of scientist Katalin Karikó…detailed text emphasizes Karikó’s arc to professional success.”

— Publishers Weekly

And then a month after publication, KATI’S TINY MESSENGERS got a STARRED REVIEW from SLJ:

“Teachers will want to use this story as model of perseverance and dedication for their lessons; elementary readers will like learning that overcoming obstacles still matters. An excellent addition to collections.” 

Interior illustration by Vivien Mildenberger from KATI’S TINY MESSENGERS
written by Megan Hoyt (Quill Tree)

This brings us to:

#Kidlit Inside View #1

Teachers and Librarians (and #kidlit authors) are acustomed to reading reviews of upcoming picture books before their publication dates. Thus wonderful reviews from the “biggies” have a huge impact on discoverability and sales if they are before/on/close to the pub date.

However, it’s become more and more common to receive these reviews, like the STARRED SLJ above, after the book is released.

Takeaways: Patience & gratitude.

Benson Shum: I got the BCCB review for IMAGINE YOU AND ME just before Christmas, so that was a nice treat before the holiday! As of late the reviews have been coming later, but they’re worth the wait when they’re a nice review. 

I was so excited to receive a starred SLJ review. I respect educators, librarians and all so much that it means a lot coming from the School Library Journal.

Megan Hoyt: My reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and PW came in right on time, so I was a little puzzled not to see School Library Journal in the mix. I thought, well, maybe they’re busy and things got backed up.

Then, I let my imagination get carried away and worried that they found my book too controversial since it was about the Covid-19 vaccine. Maybe school librarians were worried parents would not like it!

Then I saw the SLJ review. It was fantastic! I am so grateful. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, when you get a good review, it’s always a priceless treasure.


MH: I know we like to use reviews in our marketing, so if it’s delayed, our marketing can get delayed, too. But is that a bad thing? Do we have to come out of the gate swinging? Can’t some books grow and bloom in the sunshine more slowly? Like your fabulous picture book, Just Flowers!

Did someone say CHEERS to late bloomers?

You are so right, Megan. (Thank you for the mention!) This is exactly the lesson I’ve learned from JUST FLOWERS. (and Kidlit Inside View #2: Some books take time to grow and bloom.)

Advanced copies for JUST FLOWERS didn’t arrive until after our pub date in March, and there were other issues with deliveries. Thus I was not surprised when we didn’t receive “big” reviews at first. Then, like Megan, I started to wonder–WHAT IF our delays in distribution meant our book –with stunning illustrations by Kate Cosgrove that absolutely take my breath away– fell through the cracks?

Interior illustration by Kate Cosgrove from JUST FLOWERS
written by Erin Dealey (Sleeping Bear)

I am extremely grateful to Kate and our PR team at Sleeping Bear, and all the book bloggers and teachers and librarians who helped spread the word about JUST FLOWERS. It truly takes a village.

IMAGINE my delight when JUST FLOWERS got this lovely Kirkus review recently–three months after publication:

“A flower-loving child helps a grouchy neighbor blossom….This bright, bouncy story offers some lovely messages: Kindness can soften the hardest hearts, and we miss out when we make snap judgments. Cosgrove’s colorful illustrations have a childlike exuberance, set against textured backdrops. ”

Thank you,

#Kidlit Inside View #3

Partly because of the pandemic, but mostly because LIFE HAPPENS, everywhere you look, people are trying to catch up. The “big” reviews and lists help our very busy teacher and librarian friends keep up on current picture books for their classrooms and shelves. But we need to remember that our reviewer colleagues are more swamped than ever too.

Takeaway: Dear amazing Librarians and teachers — Please keep checking those book lists you use to stay current with your book orders. Save a space for our “late bloomers.”

And talk about late bloomers—

Megan Hoyt adds: I am still getting requests from schools, synagogues, and, most recently, the Italian Consul General, to do book events for my 2021 book Bartali’s Bicycle!

MH: Sometimes a slow simmer is just what a book needs. We have to wait for word of mouth recommendations to circulate, for it to be chosen for lists and awards. These things take time, but we, of course, are always trying to sell the next book. I know editors sometimes look at sales records for previous books before making their final decision. But they would be so surprised to see how that little biography is still selling three years later!

Book Boosts

What can authors do to get the word out? Benson, Megan and I are all members of PR groups that review each other’s books and share on social media.

Benson Shum: I am so appreciative to be part of an active group like DREAM TEAM! Where we are supportive and spreading the words about all our books. To spread the word about my book, I post on social media like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok. Hopefully it’ll reach all kinds of audiences. 

I also always make activities to go with my books, whether they are coloring pages, word puzzles and teacher’s guides, I hope schools, educators and libraries find them useful.

Megan Hoyt: In addition to the PR groups, here are a few things I did to market Kati’s Tiny Messengers:

Special thanks for Benson Shum and Megan Hoyt for joining me on the blog today.

One last Takeaway:

MH: I think the most important thing we can do is . . . our best. Write beautiful books. Market them as best we can. And let children, parents, librarians, and teachers know about them.

Plant seeds, and watch the seedlings bloom and grow!

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