Indie Café: Children’s books
Where imagination is everything: Children’s books with Blurb
Every single day, we’re amazed by the children’s books dreamed up by Blurb authors. They take every opportunity we give them (and that’s a lot) to break free from the limits of traditional children’s books and push the edge to whole new worlds. (Though we are fans of the classics—where would we be without Eloise and Babar?) We live for the moments when children’s book authors take advantage of our custom layout tools to fill a blank page with out-of-this-world illustrations and seriously clever copy.
The library: Children’s books we love (made with Blurb, of course)
Let’s start out with a little inspiration. Here are some of the children’s books that make us sit up and say, “wow”—the weird ones, the wild ones, and the wonderful ones.
Babes in the Wood | Lucy Howarth
Babes in the Wood comes from illustrator Lucy Haworth and children’s book pioneer Randolph Caldecott. Haworth uses Caldecott’s story to let loose her vision. Mixing elements of pop, Dada, and children’s book illustrations from the 60s, Haworth advances the story in startling new ways.
You can do what a toucan can do | Jerry Tanner and Kevin Grossman
Like many great children’s stories, You can do what a toucan can do combines elements of rhyme and graphic storytelling. The art will speak to adults infatuated with the golden age of the graphic arts, while the tale of a bird having a bad day will help children understand there’s a way out of every dilemma.
My Daddy Flies an F-15 | Jeff Smith and Lindsay Smith
Some dads have really awesome jobs—but they’re jobs that not every child can understand. That’s the idea behind My Daddy Flies an F-15. The book takes kids on a fun, graphical, loop-de-loop trip through the career of one kid’s daredevil dad. It may make parents with more desk-bound jobs rethink their careers.
Sarah No Doubt | Wade and Bayo with Wegs
Sarah No Doubt authors, Wade Alger and Jim Wegerbaur, and their illustrator, who goes by the name “Bayo,” work at advertising firms, so they know a thing or two about storytelling and marketing. This gorgeously illustrated book follows Sarah as she asks everyone she knows “Where does the sun go when the moon comes out?” We won’t tell you who finally answers, but it’ll resonate close to home. Learn more about Sarah No Doubt in our [author interview here].
ABC Animals | Vincent Poke
ABC Animals is a humorous and graphical takes on the classic A-B-C book. Each letter gets an adjective and alphabet treatment from an angry ant to a zig-zaggy zebra. The colors and personalities in Vincent Poke’s illustrations give this book a decidedly contemporary feel that will please design-savvy parents.
Life Under a Rain Cloud | Curtis Elliott
Mr. Kippler lives under a perpetual rain cloud. Day in, day out, it pours down on him. That is, until he meets Miss Kolby. Purportedly based on a true story, this book will provide a touch of hope to any kid who feels that things never go his or her way.
An Ornamented Alphabet | Sophie Hardwicke
With a crisp, graphical style, British designer Sophie Hardwicke has created the perfect beginner alphabet book. And it’s a book that’s just as fun for parents as it is for the young ones.
Quintopus | Rod Salm
As his name implies, Quintopus is a cephalopod who is short three arms. But that’s the least of what makes him unique—he’s also a world traveler. Follow Quintopus as he goes to Canada to meet the white cows that swim.
Who are you going to be today Olive? | Marisa Haedike
Marisa Haedike’s paintings bring charming warmth to her tale of a bird with a slight identity crisis. Every kid will identify with Olive’s quest to adopt new identities to fit in. And it goes without saying that Olive learns a valuable lesson in the end.
The Joys of Christmas | Tia Lambert
A charming holiday book that highlights the things that make the holiday special. With simple rhymes and graphical art, this lovely book is aimed at the younger set.
Rumpelstiltskin | Laura Foster
This retelling of the classic tale takes a typographical approach. Eschewing the classic picture-book convention, the story comes through in swirls and avalanches of text. It’s a bit challenging for new readers, but older kids will enjoy teasing out the story.
Promoting your children’s book: A conversation with an author of Sarah No Doubt
We asked Blurb authors, Wade Alger and Jim Wegerbaur (known as “Wegs”), how they went about creating their beautiful children’s book, Sarah No Doubt. Both authors and their illustrator, who goes by the name “Bayo,” work at advertising firms so they knew a thing or two about storytelling and marketing. Wade represented the bunch in our interview. Read on for insights and answers on self-publishing, children’s books, and book promotion in the world of DIY publishing.
Blurb: We loved your book—great story, beautiful illustrations. Have you ever written children's books before? What inspired this book?
Wade: We have not. Honestly I was inspired to write this book around nine years ago when my wife was pregnant with twins. People gave us books as gifts and I quickly discovered there are some really bad ones out there (and some classics). So I sat down one night and penned “Sarah No Doubt.” I showed it to Wegs about a year later and he said we have to do something with this.
Blurb: What resources did you turn to help create your book? Did you get any help with the writing and sequencing?
Wade: Both Wegs and I pored over children’s books. And apps. And sites. We researched what seemed to work best and what formulas there are. We didn’t have any help with the writing or sequencing, we just had our research, so in a sense, we were inspired by other writers. Are there mistakes in Sarah No Doubt? We’re sure of it. But it seems to flow pretty well. Second one will be better. And the third will be the charmed one. Or so the saying goes.
Blurb: What were the advantages for you in self-publishing this book rather than going the traditional publishing route?
Wade: Complete creative control. Wegs, Bayo, and I work in advertising where creative control is a rarity, so to have that freedom really worked to our advantage.
Blurb: What are you doing to promote and market this book? What has been the most successful thing you've done to market the book?
Wade: We really haven't started yet. For us, Blurb was originally a way to create prototypes and receive some feedback. But the feedback has been so overwhelming that we are reevaluating our entire plan. The possibilities are endless.
Blurb. So what sort of possibilities are you thinking about for Sarah No Doubt?
Wade: We're open to all the possibilities out there, but we strongly desire to maintain both our artistic vision and brand equity. We see this book as the beginning of a franchise and feel comfortable that our experience in marketing may well add a fresh approach to how books are brought into people's lives.
And we see partnerships with other brands and philanthropies as one avenue to disrupt the current dominant system. All of these things are possible without the aid of the traditional publishing system.
Blurb: Can you offer any tips to people self-publishing children's books? Any good online resources to turn to?
Wade: Do your research. The classics are out there. And they’re classics for a reason. I’m not saying we are one of them or will ever be but they sure do give you a great blueprint. Not too mention that they set a very high bar.
Blurb: Is there anything we didn't ask you that you think would be good for an aspiring self-published children's book author to know?
Wade: Be patient. Understand you will make mistakes. And never let any review, good or bad, go to your head or cause you to second-guess what you did. [Lucy McNab article] [Rebecca Davies article]
Real-life resources for DIY children’s book authors
What’s a children’s book? A couple of words, some sketches, and you call it a day. Child’s play, right? Well, here’s some real talk. Successful children’s books have a good story, great pacing, terrific illustrations, and an original concept—and none of that is exactly easy. Here are some on-point resources to help make your book sing.
Have some of your own favorites?
Featured books on this page:
Wade and Bayo with Wegs, Sarah No Doubt | Lucy Haworth, Babes in the Wood