How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don’t Have a Clue + an interview with Jess Keating


by Jess Keating (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2015)

Heads up, email subscribers: my blog took a bit of a tumble so I’m reposting what was lost in the shuffle. Apologies, and thank you for reading!

Sometimes you meet people on the internet who are instantly your kind of people. And all of a sudden they aren’t a tiny square avatar, but a real friend who sends you ketchup chips from Canada and the best gifs to your email. They support you on this whirling road of publishing, and they make you laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and you wish that Canada and California weren’t so far away.

Let me introduce you to my friend Jess Keating. She’s got great books and she’s a better friend, and I’m so happy to have her here today to celebrate her newest story in the My Life is a Zooseries, How to O

And also, it’s not just me. These guys liked her too . . .

“With her trademark kid-oriented wit and lighthearted touch, Keating leads readers through the daily emotional ups and downs of the typical just-turned-teenager who is trying to juggle hormones, parents, schoolwork, and, most importantly, her friends…A sweet reminder that being middle school girl is about far more than boys and makeup.” –Kirkus, starred review

So: here she is!

Hi Jess!

Hello, my dear Carter! Thank you for having me!

Can you give us some backstory on Ana? Is there any young-Jess-Keating wrapped up in her?

There is definitely a lot of young-me in Ana. I’ve always been an animal nut, and I was raised on Kratt’s Creatures, Crocodile Hunter, and Jane Goodall. Savvy readers might notice that Ana’s middle name is Jane—both she and her mother share this name to honor Dr. Goodall!

As a kid, it was my dream to live in a zoo, surrounded by strange animals. Obviously, my parents thought this would be rather hazardous, so instead they let me decorate my room to look like the rainforest. I even stuck plastic lizards and poison arrow frogs to my walls. Sometimes I even pretended I was David Attenborough, narrating my way through the day with a bad British accent.

Ana is also a giant nerd, who struggles with feeling like an outsider a lot. I think that’s something a lot of us share (particularly as teens and tweens), and I was no exception. It takes guts to share your passions, you know? I think Ana is also a very lucky kid, in that she’s surrounded by intelligent people who challenge her to pursue her dreams. We have that in common too.

Which do you most identify with: having untied shoelaces, missing a snorkel, or not having a clue?

Untied shoelaces!


What’s your ideal writing scenario? Snacks? Tunes?

Yes to snacks! I’m a big fan of popcorn and chocolate chips. Together or separately, really. My awesome agent Kathleen Rushall introduced me to Songza, which I’ve found to be perfect for playing background music while I write. I listen to mainly movie scores and video game soundtracks.

I like to move around a lot as I work, so I have a standing desk that’s really just a wooden crate that props up my laptop. That’s about it! Oh, and Post-It notes. Millions and millions of Post-It notes.

Which came first, these characters or their scenarios?

The characters came first, for sure. I think once you’ve got characters you know well, especially their flaws, it’s really a matter of plunking them down with some challenges and letting them find their way. I’ve always had such a clear picture of Ana, Daz, and Shep, so they seem to run the show. With each book, I have a general idea of a setting I’d like to explore, but I like to give them some freedom in getting there.

But sometimes writing can surprise you! Characters like Sugar and Bella were much quieter in my mind, and getting to know them better as the series continues has been extra fun.

What has been your most favorite scene to write and edit? Just don’t spoil us too much!

I love writing funny scenes, embarrassing scenes, and downright awful ‘fight’ scenes between friends. There’s just so much juicy emotion in these!

My favorite scene to write in OUTFOX revolves around Ana doing a Superman impression. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a scene I’ve wanted to write since the beginning of the series!

Describe Canada in one word.


What gif best describes your feelings for this book’s birthday week?

Ahh, you know how much I love gifs! I have so many feelings, I have to give you two! Publishing a book is a funny thing—it never stops being exciting. With every new book, I feel like Bilbo going on an adventure:

And this week especially, I’m so thankful and humbled that we get to continue Ana’s story in a third book. It takes so many people to get the story in your head on a shelf, and the readers who pick it up are really the reason we do this. So, I have a lot of love for everyone who works so hard to make these books, and those who have been with Ana from the start. Hence, hobbit hugs:

What’s coming next for you?

I like working on several projects at once, so I’ve got lots to keep me busy! My first nonfiction picture book is coming out in February, called PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH. It’s all about challenging the notion that “pink is for girls”, showcasing bizarre, dangerous, and unique pink animals. I’m tickled pink for this one! (Sorry.) This book is part of a new series called “The World of Weird Creatures”, so I’m also working on the next one! I can’t share the title yet, but I’ve definitely never seen anything like it before. Hee!

I’m also deliriously happy to report that we’ve just sold my first picture book biography!SHARK LADY is all about the life of Eugenie Clark, an incredible female scientist who studied—you guessed it—sharks. She is one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever come across, and I’m so excited to share her story!

Thanks again for having me!


The wonderful folks at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky are going to give away a complete set of Jess’s My Life is a Zoo series to a lucky reader! Head here to enter! (


Good luck!


About the Author:

Jess Keating is a zoologist and the author of the critically acclaimed How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied. Jess is also the author of the playful nonfiction picture book Pink is for Blobfish (Knopf Children’s, 2016). She lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves writing books for adventurous and funny kids. Visit Jess at

You can also find her at these places:





(And you’ll be so glad you did.)


The Story of Diva and Flea + a giveaway


by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi (Disney Publishing, 2015)

These duos, both Diva and Flea and Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi: true friends.

I love a good young chapter book, and this one is a real treat. Friends in Paris, small animals that shouldn’t be so sweet to one another, ribbons and shaggy hair and flâneur-ing.

From the publisher:

Diva, a small yet brave dog, and Flea, a curious streetwise cat, develop an unexpected friendship in this unforgettable tale of discovery.

For as long as she could remember, Diva lived at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, France. For as long as he could remember, Flea also lived in Paris, France–but at no fixed address. When Flea flâneurs past Diva’s courtyard one day, their lives are forever changed. Together, Diva and Flea explore and share their very different worlds, as only true friends can do.

I’m so excited to bring you an opportunity to win both a copy of this book and a friendship bracelet kit, because all great pairs need to wrap their love on their wrists. This prize pack is courtesy of Disney Publishing.


Comment below by midnight PST on October 13th, which is The Story of Diva and Flea‘s book birthday, and you’ll be all set to celebrate your very best friend.


Mo Willems, a number one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, has been awarded a Caldecott Honor on three occasions (for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity).Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! was also an inaugural inductee into the Indies Choice Picture Book Hall of Fame. The celebrated Elephant & Piggie early-reader series has been awarded the Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal on two occasions (for There Is a Bird on Your Head! and Are You Ready to Play Outside?) as well as garnering four Honors (for We Are in a Book!, I Broke My Trunk!, Let’s Go for a Drive! and A Big Guy Took My Ball!).


Tony DiTerlizzi, a number-one New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, created the middle-grade series The Spiderwick Chronicles with Holly Black, which has sold millions of copies, been translated into more than 30 languages and made into a feature film. He won a Caldecott Honor for illustrating The Spider & The Fly, and in 2014 he teamed up with Lucasfilm to retell the original Star Wars trilogy in a picture book featuring artwork by Academy award-winning concept artist, Ralph McQuarrie. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife, daughter and dog, Mimi.

Bonne chance!


Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney Publishing.

Everything You Need for a Celebration


It’s been a busy few weeks around here. I’m still trying to figure out where the summer part of summer is!


It’s all been fantastic things.


The Baby Tree

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackallby Sophie Blackall

published 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books, at Penguin KidsThe Baby Tree by Sophie BlackallAbout a year ago, I heard Sophie Blackall give a keynote at SCBWI Western Washington. She wears great tights and shoes and is a total riot. She had this effervescent spirit that had the whole room in stitches. It felt like watching one of her illustrations bounce right off the page and into the room.

See, I’m a big fan. Ivy and Bean are soul sisters. I gushed about The Crows of Pearblossom and The Mighty Lalouche over at Design Mom, and still stand by this tweet from the end of 2013.

Her work has sprinkles of fairy dust or something in it – something enchanting and mysterious and compelling and darn beautiful.

And this, her latest offering, is both calming and humorous, sweet and sassy. It’s a bound and beautiful answer to the dreaded where do babies come from?

breaker She’s so in tune with the vast (and sometimes creepy!) imagination of a youngster, and look at how that plays out in this art. Real life is a spot illustration, surrounded by white space and unknowns. But the what if bleeds to the edge of the page, filling every millimeter with color and wonder and possibility. Not only is it stunning to see, it’s intentional storytelling. The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall The Baby Tree by Sophie BlackallHat tip, always, to Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for the interview that revealed that delicious tidbit. Check out her interview (and more art!) with Sophie here.

Sophie works in Brooklyn with other illustrators Brian Floca, Ed Hemingway, John Bemelmans Marciano, and Sergio Ruzzier. Can you even imagine spending an hour in that studio, soaking it all up and trying not to faint and fall in it? Dream field trip, for sure. Their kinship and support of one another has always been so apparent. Look here, and here, and here to see what I mean.

But also, look inside The Baby Tree for a glimpse at their love and support of one another. What’s our pajama-clad wonderer reading with Mom and Dad, all cozied up in bed? I won’t spoil it for you, cause it was a gasp-moment for me. If you’ll bust without knowing, check out Danielle’s post over at This Picture Book Life about allusions in picture books. (And stay there a while even once you see what I’m talking about, cause how brilliant is that?!)

You’d like a copy, right? Penguin has two to give away to you! (And you!) Just leave a comment on this post by Monday at noon PST, June 2nd. I’ll pick two, and have the stork deliver The Baby Tree right to your doorstep. Good luck!


Review copy provided by the publisher, all thoughts and love my own.


Sweet and Shorts: Sassy Board Books {giveaway!}

Baby_Loves_Colors Baby_Sees Baby's_World Who_Says

illustrated by Dave Aikins

{published 2013, by Grosset & Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Books for Young Readers}


Here’s a fabulous Friday celebration! If you have little ones, you might be familiar with Sassy toys. They are designed to foster learning and engage the growing brain of our teensiest family members. And they are adorable!

So just look how spectacular their first leap into books is! This bundle of four is bright and begs to be touched (and gnawed on.) Beyond these eye-grabbing covers, the insides are a stunning display of rhythm, repetition, and pattern. Perfect for high-contrast-loving little brains!

This set debuts at the end of this month, but thanks to the kind tuxedoes at Penguin Young Readers Group, I have TWO sets of these board books for YOU! Sneak peek and nanny-nanny-boo-boo to the rest of the moms on the block. (Just kidding about that last part. But seriously, these are super books.)

To enter, just leave a comment on this post before midnight on Thursday, August 29th. Good luck!


Zoobean {and a giveaway!}


Things have been short and sweet (and silent!) around these parts for a bit, but I am thrilled to bring you something short and sweet (and stupendous!) today!

Have you heard the buzz about Zoobean?! Let me tell you!


You know that kooky clown prank where you open a can and bouncy worms pop out? That’s what I think Zoobean did when it launched recently. Their launch felt so exciting! And fresh! And new! And surprise! Not to mention, chief mom Jordan Bookey is as delightful as the belly laugh from that kooky clown prank.

And so here’s the deal. Zoobean is a parent-curated database of all the best books for kids. Any and all that are important to parents are loved by Zoobean and tagged in their catalog. Need a book with Pacific Islanders at the core? This page is perfect. Or books on adoption? Bullying? The filters are fantastic.

But database and catalog are kinda nerdy words, right? And you’re picturing old school librarians shushing you and an impossible to navigate card catalog. (And I won’t even judge you, even though I am bananas for that kind of stuff!)

But Zoobean is visually stunning, gorgeous even! And in book discovery, I’m obviously a huge fan of design. Zoobean makes it beautiful and easy, and Jordan reminds you that it’s the best thing ever to drool over books all day. (You do, don’t you?)


I was lucky enough to blurb one of my very favorites recently, Saul Bass’ Henri’s Walk to Paris. I wrote about it on this blog here, and since Jordan knows I’m crazy for it, Zoobean wants to share a copy with you! (You need it, seriously.)


Connect with Zoobean on Facebook or Twitter, and use the hashtag #ZoobeanLoved. Tell them I sent you, or tell them you love their site, or share your most loved book. Anything goes! We’ll pick a winner once the weekend is up.

Have a happy one!


Boy + Bot {giveaway!}

It’s no super big secret that I love this book. And I adore Ame Dyckman. (She tweets about squirrels! And blanket forts! And puns!)

So when she had an item up for bids at Jen Malone’s Hurricane Sandy auction, I raised my paddle a few times. Poor Ame will have to muddle her way through one of my PB manuscripts, but some goodies came along with her critique.

And the thing is, I already have a copy of Boy + Bot because it’s amazing. So I figured one of you might want this? That’s it above, signed by the sparkly Ame herself.

Also! Some other Boy + Bot swag…I am tempted to open this little goodie bag, but I see a bookmark, a frisbee, a sticker and a bracelet!

Just comment here sometime before Turkey Day at noon PST, and I’ll pick a winner.

Am I thankful for you? AFFIRMATIVE!

PS: Kate Messner and Joanne Levy have been running another amazing auction to raise funds for Sandy Relief. Some auctions are still open over at Joanne’s corner of the internet, so check it out! (Just don’t bid against me!)

A Thank You and a Congratulations!

Danny! Email me your address, and I’ll send PANTONE COLORS your way!

And everyone else? Thank you for reading. It’s been fun. How about another year?

Stuck {WINNER!}



Congratulations, Anna! Email me at with an address where you want your very own STUCK to land!


Extra Yarn WINNER!

Drum roll {of extra yarn} please…..

Congratulations to TINA CHO!

Yay, Tina! Email me at with an address, and this treat will be on its way!