You’re never too old
to read a children’s book.
Or make one.

 

We think making a children’s book is a great way to get in touch with your inner child and free your creativity in unexpected ways. You don’t have to have everything figured out when you start. Maybe you just have the kernel of an idea. Or a few funny sentences or quick sketches. The important thing is to let your imagination run wild. Free the book (and the kid) within.

 

Custom alphabet books as easy as ABC: An interview with Briana Loewinsohn

Children's Book Author Briana Loewinsohn

We love clever ideas. And in our book (sorry, sometimes we just can’t help ourselves), making a custom alphabet book for your child (or someone else’s children, whatever works for you) is pretty clever. You don’t have to be an artist or a photographer⎯like the couple we’ve profiled here⎯to make a children’s book (and even an ebook). All you have to do is let yourself be a kid again, and tap into that wellspring of creativity, freedom, imagination, and wonder.

Meet Briana Loewinsohn, an Oakland, California teacher and artist who did just that when she created a lovely little alphabet book for her daughter—with Blurb.


Can you share a little about you and Steve?

Currently Steve is a professional photographer, both for private clients and as the East Bay Express staff photographer. I teach photography and AP art at a local high school as well as doing graphic design for the school. We have a one-year old daughter, Jane.

What gave you the idea for the alphabet numbers project?

After finishing a quilt for Jane, I still felt like I wanted to make something for her before she was born, and this time I figured I would draw something. My background is mostly in comic books and illustration, so I thought an alphabet book would be useful and fun to work on. Steve was jealous while I worked on the alphabet project so he decided to make a numbers poster.

What's your creative process like?

Usually I don’t plan out my comics, I just write the story as I draw. But for this I did a lot more prep work. I thought of several possible ideas for each letter and tried to get a variety of people, foods, places, etc. I did one practice sketch for each in a sketchbook, then I gridded out the final paper and penciled in my works and water-colored and inked it.

Some of the ideas for Steve's numbers poster came to him right away (pair of pears, the tines of a fork, etc.). Then he scouted out the best place to take the photo or got the best version of the object. For example, we had our friend come over and hand-make the mini donuts just for this project.

What's your favorite letter in the project?

I would have to say “A” is my favorite because I got to draw an art gallery and curate it with some of my favorite painters throughout history. I put Steve and Jane as some of the viewers (or how I imagine they will be in a couple years). Steve says I should say “D” is my favorite because it is a drawing of him and is “D” for "daddy." It was hard to pick, but Steve's favorite number photo is the guitar strings. He plays guitar for Jane a lot, and that makes it extra special.

What is your next creative project?

I make a yearly calendar with another comics friend. In past years we have done calendars of presidents and first ladies. This year we might do presidential pets. Steve just built a photo booth that he rents out and is continuing work on that for right now.

 

Children's Books - Briana Loewinsohn Alphabet Book

 

How you can make an alphabet book of your very own

Because Briana is an incredibly artistic type, her book was laid out with our plug-in for Adobe® InDesign®, but you could easily lay out an identical book with our downloadable book-making tool—or even put it together online and turn it into a beautiful ebook for that iPad your kid loves.

Here are some simple ways to get started. (And don’t forget to mind your Ps and Qs—your book is for kids!)


Children's Books - BookSmart

Learn how to get started making your book with our downloadable book-making tool.

Children's Books - InDesign Plug-In

Or make a book like Briana's right within InDesign.

 

 

Children's books you'll only find at Blurb

Children's Books - Maisies Mountain

Maisie's Mountain

Superbly illustrated, "Masie’s Mountain" is a comical tale about a child with too many things—perish the thought. For hoarders young or old, Maisie has a lesson for us all.

Children's Books - A Home for Baby Acorn

A Home for Baby Acorn

This book was created to help the author’s adopted son understand why and how he came to be adopted. We think “Baby Acorn” can help more children to do the same.

Children's Books - The Empathic Egg

The Empathic Egg

A tongue-twisting adventure artfully pictured and penned. Bezert’s “dreamatical journey” is one older children are sure to enjoy.

Children's Books - Captain Tiny

Captain Tiny

Tiny (by name—not nature) is a little mouse with a big mission. Accomplished illustrations bring the adventures of Captain Tiny—and his good friend Teeny—to life.

Children's Books - Who are you going to be today Olive?

Who are you going to be today Olive?

A fantastic children’s book about a little bird who wanted to be special, but learned something even better—how to be herself.

Children's Books - Wombat and Bunyip

Wombat & Bunyip

There’s someone for everyone—Bunyip or otherwise—as this heartwarming tale confirms. These creative characters are sure to set little imaginations alight.

Children's Books - Inky

Inky

Will Inky the duck find some friends? We’re sure this book will. Beautiful illustrations take the lead and deliver a great story.

Children's Books - I am girl

I am girl...

Containing 22 affirmations, this is little book of welcome reminders for little ladies is actually helpful for everyone. With the option to personalize—both "to" and "from"—it makes an ideal gift.

Children's Books - Leo Packs

Leo Packs

Get your little ones counting with Leo the Lion. Wonderful, colorful illustrations are stitched together with rhyming verse—kids can even have some fun adding faces to the blanks in the book.

Children's Books - Sweet Steffi

Sweet Steffi

A lovely rhyming tale that follows little duckling Sweet Steffi on her journey to find a playmate. This book is Illustrated by Venezuelan artist Piktorama and suitable for ages 4–8.

Children's Books - When Savannah Got Sick

When Savannah Got Sick

A family of turtles (and the thoughtful approach of the author) help broach the subject of illness in a way little children can understand.

Children's Books - Susie goes into the garden

Susie goes into the garden

From a series of six books (and counting), Susie the dog encourages children to interact and to help her find things throughout.

 

 

Bring a story to life: Tips and tricks from a talented illustrator

Children's Books - Don Morris

Children’s books come in all shapes and sizes. But the good ones have a couple of things in common: A good story and illustrations that captivate the reader. We got the inside scoop on storytelling from Don Morris, illustrator of When Savannah Got Sick. Don told us about the balance between words and pictures and how authors and illustrators can get started on their very own book (and quickly, too).

 

The story's topic is obviously sensitive. What made you want to tell this story?

Savannah has a brother named Jackson. He's five years old. He loves Savannah dearly. How do you explain to him that Savannah is dying? For that matter, how does anyone do that? Meredith (the author) and I wanted to tell the story for Savannah and Jackson and we wanted to present it in a form that other children would understand. It came up that Savannah loved turtles. That’s how the idea really took root.

That's the question that sparked our idea at the Tampa Bay Times newspaper in St. Petersburg, FL. to help tell Savannah's story with a children's book.

After the meeting a few of us continued talking about Savannah. The reporter, Meredith Rutland, mentioned that Savannah loved turtles. That's when the idea really took root. We wanted to tell the story for Savannah and Jackson (her brother) and we wanted to present it in a way that other children would understand.

What was your hope for the book?

Our hope was that the book could be used as a tool in comforting other young children in similar situations.

How did you and Meredith work together to make the story come to life?

Meredith had never written a children's book. We discussed how Savannah's story needed to be simplified and squeezed down to mere sentences on every page and remain useful and entertaining. We also talked about pacing and how the story might unfold.

Did you start with the illustrations or the words?

Meredith wrote rough text for the story and I drew Savannah and Jackson as young turtles so we could mock up several pages of the book. Our art advisor had used Blurb for a personal project and told us it would be perfect for what we wanted to do. We downloaded the templates and were able to experiment with how the illustrations and words would be displayed.

Speaking of illustrations, do you have any favorite children’s book illustrators?

Quentin Blake sticks out because he illustrated Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The other is Dr. Seuss, because he made it possible for all of us illustrators to be as wacky as we want to be, stylistically speaking. Especially if we can tell a good story.

What would your tips and tricks be for anyone who hasn’t yet made a children’s book?

If you’re not an illustrator, find your favorite examples of art styles and collect them so you can present them to an illustrator. Show them what you like and tell them why.

If you are an artist illustrating a children's book with Blurb, download the templates, print them out, and start laying out your story. Don't just do one layout for any single page—change the view. Do very tight, up-close scenes and follow them up with panoramic scenes. Change the view of the scene from page to page to increase the movement and drama. Think like a fly on the wall. What would they see if they were looking down on the scene?

How do you recommend developing a character in a children’s book?

When creating a character, draw it from several angles and with different expressions. Before you decide on your character, it's important to visualize what they look like in as many situations as possible. Use a prop like a hat or a funny hairdo or glasses to make them recognizable and memorable from scene to scene.

Draw or paint traditionally and have a good scanner. Also, use rough drawings as soon as possible in the process of laying out your book. Scan them in and experiment. If you don't have a scanner, take pictures of your roughs. Make them black and white so you focus on the characters and the composition of the scenes, including lights and darks.

If you are designing the book, use a very simple font. Let the story and the pictures be stars of your story. Because there are so many choices of fonts, it is tempting to give way to much attention to picking one that "feels right" or "looks like the character." I can't emphasize it enough—do not over-design your book.

Do you have any other books in the works?

I have two projects that would be perfect for Blurb. I’m an identical twin and have twin granddaughters under the age of two, so I have lots of story ideas that involve twins. I have an outline and I know what I want them to look like. The other project is much more serious and involves a mystery. It's a true story I worked on several years ago involving a cold case crime. It was published in the Tampa Bay Times and had a huge response and generated lots of curiosity. I think it will make a very interesting tale for young people as a graphic novel.

 

 

Blurb in the Classroom: Getting seriously creative with your students

Children's Books - Christopher Blair

We got the chance to catch up with a teacher, Christopher Blair of Portland, Oregon, to learn how he went from making an anniversary photo book for his wife to using Blurb’s creative publishing platform to inspire and engage his students. Christopher’s story embodies what we mean when we say “free the book.” Christopher found a way to unlock his students’ skills⎯from design to writing—through the magic of making and publishing books.

 

Can you give us a little background about you and your school?

I am the principal and head teacher at De Paul Alternative School, a residential treatment facility in Northeast Portland that serves youth who are struggling with addiction. We have hired a great staff, and for a tiny little school, the kids have a lot of options in their classes. And thanks to the commitment of our leadership team and our board of directors, our classroom technology is first-rate.

Did you first use blurb for a personal project? How did you think you could use it in your school?

I used Blurb to make a book of wedding and other photos for my new wife, Deidre. We had all these great photos from the wedding. And that's the dilemma of getting a photographer: What do you do with 100-something photos? Fortunately, our first anniversary was coming up. The first anniversary is paper, right? So a book dedicated to my wife was a perfect gift. I downloaded the Blurb software. Then I started playing around with it and just kind of got lost in it for four or five days.

I used to work in newspapers so I like to think that I have a halfway decent sense of design and layout (though a few of my former colleagues might disagree). Anyway, the software was so elegant and easy to use that I was hooked. For four or five days, my wife would be watching TV, and I'd be a few feet away with my laptop angled away from her just so, secretly making this great-looking book. That's how easy it was. A fifty-page photo book on my broken down old laptop with a trackpad that doesn't work half the time. I got the project done, shipped it off, and got it back a couple of days before the anniversary.

It KILLED. I think Deidre read it fifty times that first night. And honestly, it looks like something you'd buy at an airport bookstore—if an airport bookstore sold a book about my wedding. Nice work, Blurb.

Describe how your program worked—how did your students use Blurb?

The science that I offer is astronomy, and it's the only class I teach anymore when I'm not principal-ing. I know a lot about the topic, it's cheap, it doesn't require a lab, and the kids live in dorms at the school, so we can occasionally observe stuff at night. All last year, though, the weather was terrible (thanks, Portland) and my telescopes were sidelined. I'd pretty much shown every movie and done every lab in my folder. So I got the bright idea to put Blurb on the computers and teach the kids how to make their own books about the planets. Astronomy books are perfect for Blurb. The Internet is full of free, public domain, high-res images.

Later I developed a spin-off class devoted exclusively to publishing books. The students picked a topic and got to write about whatever they wanted, as long as it was appropriate for school and their treatment. I could see students having to make a book proposal, learning about typefaces, doing books of poetry, the life of Tupac, whatever. And you could make the class as rigorous as they could handle.

Did anything surprise you about how it worked?

I'm less surprised about Blurb than I am about how quickly the kids took to it. My average length of stay last year was about thirty days, so the kids had to race to get the books done. But I was surprised at how quickly they were jumping in and playing with everything, and how receptive they were to my editing their work once the project seemed more tangible.

What's the biggest challenge you faced with the program?

Few of my kids can write over 20 pages with text, plus photos. That means I was getting a lot of short books. The first one I saw finished was about Saturn. The girl did an AMAZING job with it, but I chose softbound for the cover. (Because I am an idiot.) It came back from the printers looking like the world's best pamphlet about Saturn. Had I gone with hardback, it would have basically looked like a children's book, which is still kind of a cool thing. A book's a book, right? The next book one of my kids produced was on exotic cats. We went with hardback and it was fantastic. That girl had a great eye for design and layout.


 

And one last question: What was your favorite thing about using Blurb?
What I liked about the program was that it had the same intuitive feel that I used to experience with professional layout software. Only it's a hundred times easier. I can tell that whoever put it together really loves design and wants to share the joy of creating stuff with people. That's just great.

 

PS We're expanding the way the world thinks about books. Have you made something amazing? Share your book with us. Just use the hashtag #freethebook.
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