Book Review: Desert Baths by Darcy Pattison

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Book Review


Desert Baths

A nature picture book
written by Darcy Pattison
illustrated by Kathleen Rietz


Animals and birds in the desert don’t take baths like people. Darcy Pattison takes children along with her on a trip through the desert to find out how desert animals clean themselves. They learn all kinds of fun facts along the way.

Twelve desert creatures are highlighted. Birds, bats and bobcats take unique baths. One creature even uses bugs to bathe! Teachers and parents can use this interesting book to teach children about weather, different climates and geography.

Each of the desert dwellers are brought to life with Kathleen Rietz’s magnificent, realistic illustrations. Detailed animals and complex backgrounds grace each page.

There are six pages of learning activities that will encourage further discussion about the desert and the creatures that live there. There is an additional teacher’s guide available that expands learning by additional fun activities. It includes a word search puzzle, a matching game and instructions to make your own bird bath, a coloring page and other fun activities.

Darcy has written books for children and adults, she has been published in eight languages. Her website is a wealth of knowledge just waiting for writers and want-to-be writers to check it out.

Kathleen is an Illinois native, who teaches art classes when not illustrating books. See more of her work on her website:

If you are a member of Goodreads, sign up to win a copy of at:



Set a Goal, Even if it is just for you!!

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Maybe it is because I was a first born child. Maybe it is because I have a type A personality even though in my heart I would really love to be such a laid back type B I’d fall into the Cs if there was such an animal. Anyway, I function better with goals.

They can be little ordinary goals, such as the list of things I need to get done on the weekend. Extraordinary things such as clean the wood floors, iron, clean out the fridge…you know all the stuff we hate to do but have to.

They can be much larger goals. One of my goals this year has been to get a children’s book and/or magazine article for children published. This goal may or may not be met, but logically thinking I made a sort of “publishing plan”.

First – I had to write something for children. Duh, couldn’t publish a kid’s book if all I was writing was for adults. So I’ve been writing, rewriting and writing again. And I also read any children’s books, current and classics. I suggest you read the type of books you want to publish also. It really helps.

Second – I am active in my children’s critique group on Yahoo. The gals are the best ever. They are honest and encouraging. I would suggest anyone writing in any specific genre look for a critique group to join. Mine is online, because it is difficult for me to be someplace on a specific day and time each week. Whatever works for you, go for it!

Third – I had to actually submit my stories to editors, agents and magazines. Anyone that is trying to publish anything needs to be thick skinned. One of my children’s picture book manuscripts as been rejected 4 times this year. Each time I get the bad news, I rewrite again. Might be a little, might be a lot. But it will make me a better writer someday. I hope 🙂

Lastly – I need to realize that it may just be so-so, not great and start this whole process over again. Will I get published? Who knows. Will I give up? Nope. Maybe I’ll be a retired grandma before I get a book published, maybe I’ll never see it happen. Either way, I am not giving up. My type A won’t let me 🙂

images from Google

Mock-up/Dummy book

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This week rejection #3 arrived. Three isn’t that many, we’ve all read the horror stories of dozens and dozens of rejections. One of the gals in my crit group suggested using a mock-up or dummy book with my stories to make sure there is enough action and each page moves the story forward.

Looking online for examples seemed to be the easiest way to proceed. Of course there were hundreds of hits. I looked at quite a few, then picked two to work with. The best was Darcy Pattison’s blog ( She has so much useful info I go back to her site often. Check out her blog as a great resource for your writing.

She explains the basic set up: 16 pages of paper are folded in half to make 32 pages for text. Leave pages 1-3 blank, beginning the text on page 4 or 5. The text should spread across both pages from page 6, ending page 29.

If you don’t have enough text, or too much text – REVISE!

If you can’t create a picture in your mind (the illustrator has to have something to work with!) – REVISE!

If each page doesn’t move the story forward, or add to the tension -REVISE!

If you can skip pages without missing them – REVISE!

Cut words if needed, work on the pace, move settings from place to place, add emotion and action if flat!!!

I’m pulling out my scissors, mocking up my story to make it the best it can be before sending it out again!

Thanks Darcy for all of your great tips!

How do you evaluate your stories?

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I just read an article about writing picture books. I’ve been polishing my picture books for submission. One has been out to two publishers, both rejected it but I am holding on to my belief in the story. Maybe it needs a bit more tweaking? It has been through my crit group a couple of times and has been changed/tightened/improved (I hope) over the course of a few months.

Anyway- reading an article by Linda Arms White, The 5 Biggest Picture Book Mistakes – Are You Guilty of These? I found a nugget of gold. She advises using this simple sentence to evaluate your book:

This is a story about ___________________(the main character) who wants___________________(what? The goal) more than anything, but can’t get it because___________________(why? This is the story problem.).

If it isn’t exciting enough to grab your attention after you fill this in, punch it up! If you can’t fill this in, start over! Is it new, different and unique? Better be if you want to be published. 

I am bumping my story up to this sentence and if it holds merit – off it goes again this week!

Onward to my goal of finding a home for at least one of my picture books by the end of the year!


Plum Tree Books

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Plum Tree Books – a great new place to hang out!   
Plum Tree Books  introduces new authors, offers anthologies and showcases photography, art and music. There are opportunities for adult and children contribute. Creativity, inspiration and fun is just a click away!

Check out the website

SCBWI Spring Thaw

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Last Saturday I attended the annual Spring Thaw Conference held by my local chapter of the SCBWI for the first time. As a writer, I am at a loss for words as to how valuable the day was.

At first I felt out of place. It was not because everyone wasn’t friendly, because they were. I don’t often go to conferences or classes on my own, but don’t really “hang out” with any authors or writers. My crit group is awesome, but they are online and many states away. It was a bit overwhelming to sit at a table with several published authors and  illustrators. All of them were so kind and generous with advice, they really made me feel at home

Lin Oliver and Steve Mooser – the founders of the SCBWI were the speakers. They have forgotten more about writing than most people learn I am absolutely certain. Both have different styles and gave us tips, quips and stories to take home to encourage us all and help us become better writers. The are bright, funny, entertaining and really interesting to listen to.

Lin spoke briefly with me afterwards and encouraged me to “put a stamp” on my picture book manuscript and get it out there! I followed her advice (electronically) and submitted it to an agent tonight who will hopefully fall in love with my character and story and decide to pick it up. Keep fingers, toes and anything else crossed that you can for the safe journey and landing of my story.

I have ideas running around in my head for a couple more picture books that I want to get the rough drafts typed up. Maybe there is an usable idea for a middle grade novel rattling around in the vast emptiness of my head also. Will keep you posted if I can shake it loose.

Book or ebook – that is the question

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What do kids read today? Are ebooks a viable option for preschoolers? Or do they crave the feel of holding an actual book and turning actual pages?

I read both. I love the convenience of a reader. Taking 100+ books along in my purse is my idea of packing light when leaving on a trip.   Yet I cannot imagine giving up print books. I love the feel of books, the smell of books and collecting books. Just walking into a bookstore is a rush. If it sounds as though I am addicted to them, I would not be able to argue otherwise.

Herein lays my struggle. Should I submit my children’s story to both print and e publishers ? It is ready to go out the door into the vast unknown of rejections and the possibility of acceptance, and part of me wants to be a print book snob and only sent out to houses that will print it if accepted. The rest of me says I’d have to be crazy to ignore the wave of the future in publishing.

Right now I have a short story available in an ebook. I am more than excited to be a part of the anthology and embrace the technology that has expanded book markets.

I guess the difference is I can’t envision curling up with an ereader to read a bedtime story to my kids. Any opinions before I send my manuscript off with high hopes?

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