Happy Monday and welcome to Picture Book Spotlight!
Ahhh...that magical time of year. That wonderfully wild rollercoaster between Thanksgiving and Christmas where teachers, students, and everyone in between are just seemingly counting down the days and fighting the temptation to coast on neutral while juggling literally all the things. Or maybe that's just how it feels since I'm a teacher.
I often forget not everybody has that traditional school schedule dominating their waking hours, but that's where I'm at. Wherever you're at, I hope this finds you well. Maybe you need a little wintery whimsy in your world to ironically warm your heart. Perhaps we all do...
If so, this post is for you! What a segue--because I'm so excited about Spotlighting this book! It's beautiful inside and out. You're going to love it!
But first...a few announcements.
Since this is the first blog since PBCritiqueFest, I wanted to give a shoutout to all our participants and winners. This year was truly a memorable and meaningful festival! In total, we had 32 winners, 200 unique registrations, and 3,000 total raffle entries! Yes. 3,000! Absolutely massive. Congrats to all!
PBCritiqueFest will return...
Another thing to note was that Tom Knight and I just celebrated the first anniversary of our picture book, The Book of Rules. How has it been a year!? What a whirlwind to say the least. And it's hard for me to capture in words everything that I've learned and to articulate what it all means. So since I can't think of anything profound to say...thank you. Thank you for being part of this journey. Thank you for connecting with me, encouraging me, reading all my silly fake bios, and for making this first year as a published author so unforgettable. A year in, and none of this feels real. I hope it always feels that way...
So thanks for following (and, at times, breaking) the rules. Together we have single-handedly deprived Dennis of his most prized meal of choice (if you know...you know). I foresee the poor beast enjoying a steady diet of books in the future. Keep it up!
And now the moment you've been waiting for...a fantastic picture book recommendation and Spotlight interview that's sure to warm up your wintery story times. Cozy up with something warm...the northern lights are just around the bend--if only we work together!
Alli! I really loved this beautiful book! Thank you so much for the opportunity to Spotlight it! I was curious about the influences and inspirations behind Bright Winter Night. Give us the inside scoop—the story behind the story!
Awww, thanks so much, Brian! It means a lot to me to have someone with your superb taste say that. And thank YOU for the honor of spotlighting Ashling Lindsay’s and my new picture book, Bright Winter Night.
My inspiration behind this book is simple: it’s friendship. The story is about a group of forest creatures, some that wouldn’t necessarily be friends with others, that comes together for a common goal and to experience something special together. Anyone who knows me IRL knows how important my friends are to me. I suppose I just had to write a friendship story one day.
As for influences for this story, you could say that many poets had an influence on the rhyming verse. Delicate and quiet poets, like Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. Poets who dealt with the sublime, like Blake and Wordsworth. And poets whose work sounds like music, like Walt Whitman and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
If you don’t know this about me, I kind of have a thing about picture books and wolves. Your book has wolves. This means you win at picture books. CONGRATS! All silliness aside, I truly did think this whimsical, lyrical, wintery tale of friendship was a delight. I noticed it seems to have something to say about the power of nature to captivate and transform—what emotional thread did you seek to weave into this story and why is it a relevant message for kids today?
Wow, I rarely win anything, Brian. How exciting! 😉
You are completely right about the power of nature to captivate and transform. I, like many people, am fascinated by the energy held within nature. A forest is a living, breathing thing, right? So, why not make it a character in a picture book!
I think nature comes with its own emotional intelligence, and those feelings are possibly more powerful and larger in scope than ours as humans. Nature requires our deep reverence and empathy. With Bright Winter Night, I wanted to elicit that awe and respect in some of our youngest readers. And having a healthy respect for nature is super important for kiddos. Because—shh, I’m going to tell you a secret—my #1 agenda as a children’s book writer is to help raise a generation of empathetic and compassionate creatures.
Let’s get a close-up on your lyrics and words. What’s your absolute favorite line (stanza?) from the story and why?
Ohhh, you’re asking me to choose my favorite? OK, I have two. The first is:
“…and then begins the song of snow.”
This line (nearly) starts the whole story, and kicks it off with a call to the musicality of a snowfall. Snow is silent, right? (Unless it’s accompanied by wind.) So this, to me, is an homage to the beauty of silence. With true silence, you can hear your own thoughts. And therein lies the song.
And I also really enjoy this couplet
“This moment draws the friends together—
beak and muzzle, fur and feather.”
because it reminds us of two things: how different each of these animals are from one another AND that they have come together to revel in the magic of the northern lights. This is the unifying power of something which is greater than individuals. Also, dammit, I love the word “muzzle.”
Now it’s time to spotlight that stunning artwork from Ashling Lindsay. WOW! I want it on my walls. Like yesterday. This was such a strong collaboration. What’s your favorite artistic element and why? What’s your favorite whole spread and why?
Thanks! I totally agree that Ashling Lindsay is a fantastic pairing for this picture book. My favorite element of Ashling’s art is the color palette she chose to use. It’s both cool, to represent winter, and warm, to convey the animals’ friendship.
And my favorite whole spread is probably this one where they’re all seeing the northern lights together. That’s the moment the reader has been waiting for, and it packs such a punch.
Tell us something that surprised you or that you discovered during the process of writing Bright Winter Night or seeing it come to life.
Something that surprised me was how much the book was embraced and championed by my fabulous editor Marilyn and the whole team at Amazon/Two Lions. The author care is unparalleled. And the marketing and promotional push they’ve put behind the book is incredible. I couldn’t be more grateful.
Thanks for this question, Brian. It’s a really kind one. Well, you can buy the book, of course, or request that your local library purchase it. If you’ve bought the book, please write a review wherever you can. If your kid, grandkid, nephew, niece really enjoyed the book, please mention that in the review! I love reading about the way my books are received by kids. And, if it’s snowing by you, celebrate by riding on a sled and having a snowball fight.
Complete the following sentence: “the world needs picture books because…”
“…what else would we snuggle up with and read to our kiddos at night?”
Thank you so much for sharing this celebration with us, Alli! So agree about the essential and unique snuggle-ability that picture books create space for. Cheers to you and Ashling both!
And thank YOU, kidlit fam for stopping by this dark and dusty corner of the world wide web. Please do yourself a solid and get a copy of this wonderful book--make winter a bit warmer! If you fancy your luck and ability to win random giveaways, check out the deets below for your chance to win your very own copy of Bright Winter Night!
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***The deadline for this contest is Monday, December 19th at 9AM CST
The winner will be contacted on Monday, December 19th and announced on Twitter and Facebook***
About Alli Brydon
Author Alli Brydon is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Recent picture books include Bright Winter Night, illustrated by Ashling Lindsay, Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli is a children’s book editor and a New Yorker who now lives in England with her family. Learn more at www.allibrydoncreative.com
Brian is the human in the photo to the left. The monster is Dennis. Dennis is a terrifying monster who eats kids who don't follow the rules. You must follow the rules or be eaten. The rules of this pretend bio are to keep reading until you get to the rainbow at the end. What's a pretend bio, you ask? You must be new here. You see, Brian does not just write any old bio. No. Mostly, he shies away from actual real-life facts and traditional biographies. In fact, he's never written a normal bio in his life. Not even in the jacket of his debut book--have you read it? Not even there. That means there are 30,000 snarky bios just hanging out in the world on various shelves and in warehouse boxes and under your kid's bed. You get the point. Brian would rather be silly at the end of his blog posts and offer easter egg rewards to the most persistent readers. It's kind of a thing here. We're talking about emoji codes. Yes, you read that right. Secret emoji codes that shall not be discussed nor named nor ever truly acknowledged except by a cryptic comment on Twitter or something. But boy does it make a difference. Brian will haphazardly toss out emoji codes that get you three, five, ten times more raffle entries for the various PB Spotlight giveaways. So you're probably wondering when the code will show up. They usually sneak up on you and have something to do with a trivial detail at the beginning or middle of the sea of words that is Brian's pretend bios. Rainboy. It's a rainbow. The emoji code is a rainbow, okay? Toss in a rainbow emoji and Brian will enter your name ten additional times for Alli's raffle. Good for you reading all the way to the end. Are you still reading this? What else do you want!? Okay, fine...did you know Brian is secretly offering professional picture book critiques exclusively via hour-long Zoom calls? If you'd like Brian to work with you and make your picture book more awesome than it already is, check out this secret page and use the promo code "Allisecretcode" for 25% off a one-hour Zoom call (expires 1/12/23). Stay warm out there, friends. It's going to be a cold one...