Author Archives: sarvindern

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen Goodbye

It’s been an exciting ride having Blue Sky White Stars and LiNES come out in the same year and a few months apart. One took 4 years to be born, and the other less than 2 years. Both have simple sparse verse. It’s been quite a ride.

Blue Sky Cover w text

When I wrote Blue Sky White Stars, I had no idea if anyone would like it. When I wrote LiNES , I hoped people would like it.

(click here for teacher ideas to go with BSWS)

(click here for teacher STEM ideas to go with LINES)


People ask which is my favorite and I have to say LiNES. Both ideas just came to me and I wrote them down as fast as I could to catch all of it.

On thinking about what to post, of course I loved getting to know my fellow Emus and being part of the nest. It was a wonderful feeling to have support while watching my “baby” hatch into the world. Of course when flying the coop, reflection became a natural part of it. That made me start thinking about what it takes to be a writer in this industry. I would have to say that writing takes courage. Courage means you are afraid, but you move forward anyway. Courage involves fear, not lack of.


Sometimes people ask for advice on writing. So I thought in my farewell post, I would list a dozen things that helped me (other than the wonderful Emus). . .

  1. I would also say, be aware of your fear of success, and make sure that is not stopping you.
  2. Give yourself permission to succeed.
  3. Ask lots of questions to yourself and out loud. The answer will come. This is especially helpful when having writers-block or solving a problem.
  4. Remember to revise more than rewrite.
  5. Don’t send out a manuscript before it is done. Make sure it spit-shines.
  6. Put in your 10,000 hours to become a professional. Remember this IS a competition.
  7. Make your goal that you want your manuscript to be irresistible to any editor.
  8. Join a critique group (I recommend online).
  9. LISTEN. Know that you don’t have to take any of the advice. You just need to put your wall down and listen. That is how you will learn. That is how you will grow and get better.
  10. Regularly do critiques (as in a critique group). Learn to have the eyes of an editor.
  11. Think out of the box. Picture books have been around for 100+ years in mass. The obvious ideas are taken. Think out of the box.
  12. Pray! (My secret weapon :o)

Thank you fellow Emus and readers, teachers, librarians, and all the lovely supporters of my writing and books. On that note, it’s late.  The sun has gone to bed, and so must I.  So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye.

IMG_2907Sarvinder Naberhaus  is the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her most recent book, Blue Sky White Stars received 4 starred reviews and is a patriotic salute to the flag, paralleling the forces that forged this great nation, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson. Look for her STEM & STEAM book, LiNES (also a starred review from PW) with  Pinterest boards of activities (click here: of all her books) for teachers, visit her website and find her on Twitter: @sarvindern


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I had just come off of an SCBWI conference, and I was inspired!  I decided that I wasn’t going to go to sleep until I got an idea. I just wanted to have a revelation. I kept thinking, brainstorming, trying to think of possible picture book ideas. I just wasn’t going to go to bed without one. And late that night (early in the morning) I caught the edge of my bookshelf with the corner of my eye, and the edge formed a LINE. And that’s when I thought, that’s it. Lines.
From there, I sat down quickly and started typing out LINES. For me, this is absolutely the best thing I’ve ever written.

I spent the next day making illustrations to go with it. LINES ALL AROUNDYou can’t really understand it with just the words which seems to be typical of my books (it was subbed with my dummy book art). Whenever I shared LINES at conferences, it seemed to make an impact on people, so I hope people enjoy it.

I love the fact that a true line, according to the dictionary, goes on forever in both directions. Isn’t that cool?  Forever east and forever west. It occurred to me that a circle is a line, because it also goes on forever and ever. And it is!  A circle IS a line!  It’s just a bent line. Or is a line an unbent circle?  What came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, I believe it is the chicken & circle, since almost all math is built upon the principles and equations relative to it (the circle, not the chicken). So I believe the circle came first. LINES GO UP
If you take a straight line (180 degrees) and divide it into 360 segments, and bend each segment 1 degree, you will have a circle. So a circle is a line. Or a line is a circle. This is just a small taste of what makes this a STEM book. One may argue that LINES is for the very young, and very simple, but I absolutely disagree! I use LINES in the presentation I give to college students. We go from a line segment to Einstein’s theory of relativity. A line is a profound phenomenon. Things can be simple AND profound at the same time. Simple can be profound.

burgandy starI really wanted LINES to be a picture book because board books don’t necessarily get the recognition they deserve, and rarely get reviewed. You can imagine how excited I was when LINES got a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. I’m so excited to see LINEs go out into the world and hopefully make a profound impact on people’s hearts and minds. I feel so privileged to be the messenger that brings concepts such as LINES into the world.


Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her most recent book, Blue Sky White Stars received 4 starred reviews and is a patriotic salute to the flag, paralleling the forces that forged this great nation, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson. Look for her upcoming STEM book, Lines (book launch August 26, 10:30 at the Ames Library) and visit her website


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Interview With WHO? Whobert’s editor ~Annie Nybo~

I had the pleasure of interviewing Annie Nybo. She’s a fun editor with lots of books and lots of experience to her credit.  She gave some great insight into what editors are looking for.

Annie Nybo
  1. What are you looking for in a narrative picture book?

In narrative picture books, I am looking for something that evokes an emotional response (it needs to make me laugh out loud or literally touch my heart and  make me say “aww”). I look for something that is truly telling a story, and for something that has some kind of subtle message to it—that doesn’t just rely on silliness (more on that below). And, I can’t say this enough, a good title can make me look at a submission differently. Jason has AMAZING titles— WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE is so absurdly funny—and when I saw his manuscript, I knew he would be able to make edits because he had been able hone in on such a good title. It takes both a creative mind and a very fine-tuned editorial eye to title something, and if an author has an excellent title, it shows me that they think about details.

whobert hoover

  1. How do you edit a picture book?

I read a picture book out loud at least five times before I start editing—even if it’s not being marketed as a “read aloud,” the reality is that most of these books are read to children, so the verbal pacing needs to work. I then do a macro edit where I look at the beginning, the middle, and the end, and think about whether they’re working individually, and if they are working together. I find blocking things out into sections is particularly useful for narrative books because you need to make sure that the cause and effect is working and that there is an inherent logic to the story—sometimes if you don’t look at the connections between the pieces, you’ll miss bits that were glossed over. Just because there’s only 500 words doesn’t mean it should lack dramatic structure. And I then do a micro-edit, looking at word choice, rhythm, pacing, etc.


Learn more about Whobert Whover’s author Jason  Gallaher

  1. How do you keep a funny picture book from being too slight?

The more I work with picture books, the more I have come around to the notion that every picture book needs to have a message. I think people get the “this is slight” comment when there isn’t something else at work in the text beyond the humor. Now, that doesn’t mean that every picture book should be didactic—I also make the “should be subtler” comment a lot. But take a look at something like WHOBERT. WHOBERT, on the surface, is a very funny picture book about an owl trying to solve his possum friend’s “murder”. But there are two things going on here: first, it teaches basic detective and mystery tropes to kids by introducing the concept of clues, getaway cars, hideouts, etc. This might not seem as important as learning how to share, but learning genre conventions—particularly genre conventions of a number of chapter books—is very important to growing up. And second, Whobert has a deeper message about false accusations, and about being aware of your own body and physical presence. These are all the messages that are being conveyed that keep the book from being too slight, but they’re quite subtle and absolutely inherent to the story.


  1. What kind of picture book submissions do you see the most of? What would you like to see more of?

I’m still seeing a lot of meta alphabet books, which are a really, really hard sell. The market is so crowded… It’s not a bad idea, it’s just an idea that may not be worth your effort right now. I think we’ve all been seeing a lot of STEM biographies about women, which is great! I’d love to continue to see nonfiction books, particularly about women and people of color. And I would love to see more picture books about religious minorities in the United States, preferably by authors from those religious backgrounds.

  1. What books have you edited/ worked on?

If you can allow me a quick plug for my pinterest page – I list all the books I’ve edited and worked on there: But a few highlights: In Middle Grade I’ve edited The Glass Town Game by Catherynne M. Valente, The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn and its prequel, the forthcoming His Royal Whiskers, by Sam Gayton, and in YA I’ve edited Shimmer and Burn by Mary Taranta and Feeder by Patrick Weekes.

glass town game lettie peppercornhis royal whiskersshimmer and burnfeeder

  1. What are some of your favorite picture books?

I love UGLY FISH by Kara LaReau and Scott Magoon. It incorporates everything I mentioned above: humor and a subtle message (well, not SO subtle in this case) with a great title. I think NIGHT ANIMALS by Gianna Marino is an excellent read-aloud, and I love David Ezra Stein’s DINOSAUR KISSES. Apparently I really like animal books.

  ugly fishnight animals dinosaur kisses


Thank you Annie for your WISE words that shed a little bit of light onto this owly business. Whobert Whover is quite a hoot & a feather in your cap.

Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her most recent book, Blue Sky White Stars received 4 starred reviews and is a patriotic salute to the flag, paralleling the forces that forged this great nation, illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson. Look for her upcoming STEM book, Lines (launching August 26, 10:30) at the Ames Library and visit her website


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Blue Sky White Stars, the book journey

Blue Sky Cover w text

Front Cover


Back Cover

My journey with this book started with getting my agent. I had given Joan several of my manuscripts and was excited when she called and took me as a client. 

Blue sky civil march

       She wanted me to add more people and Americana

She sent Blue Sky to my editor, and when Lucia saw this manuscript, she asked if she could call me.Of course I was very excited!  I had just gotten a few rejections and I was planning on revising it. Lucia had a vision for this book right from the start. It was really her vision that brought it all together.

Of course that vision included Kadir Nelson as the illustrator. When I went to his website and looked at his artwork (this was before I knew who Lucia had in mind), it hit me that he was the perfect artist for this book, with his rich blues and deep browns. He has also done books that contained several of the subjects in my book, such as baseball and Abe Lincoln, and space.

When Lucia spoke with me on the phone, she asked me to revise. She wanted me to add more people and Americana to the text. So of course I brainstormed for months, thinking about the flag and words that describe it, that could also describe people.

When I write, I ask myself a lot of questions, so I asked myself, “Where else has the flag been?” And the answer was immediate. To the moon! And I knew I had my climax, even though this was a concept book. I had always wanted to be an astronaut so this was the perfect ending.

Lines cover rounded

            LINES out August 21

For me, space is always the perfect ending for my books (see my upcoming board book, LINES). 

Dial did decide that they were going to be doing special 4th of July displays around the country with this book, so I got to sign 2000 copies ahead of time, putting my signature alongside Kadir’s. IMG_2632

The only thing was, I got the books late, so I only had 4 days to do so.


Here I am signing some of my 2000 copies the first time

Then, later on, it ended up that the ink stuck on the previous pages, and so we had to resign 2000 copies all over again!  IMG_2633

I doubt my small hometown will have the display at my local bookstore, but I hope people will send me photos if they run into one.
I also ended up doing quite a lot of backmatter, that the editorial team wanted me to do, last minute. So I had less than a month to research and write the backmatter for all the topics of this book. Non-fiction research takes a lot of time because there are contradictory facts and you have to dig deep to find the truth. In the end, they forgot to tell me that they had cut it. I found out when I got the final pdf, right before being sent off for printing. In the end, I think the current end pages match the tone of the story much better.  I told my editor this would make for a good story someday! 

So that is a little about this book and how it came into this world. Thanks for sharing my special day with me!


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MAMA LOVES YOU SO: An Interview with agent Tricia Lawrence


I’m excited to celebrate the launch of this lovely book, Mama Loves You So, by author Terry Pierce. Terry is giving away a free copy of her book, so leave a comment below to enter the drawing. Today I am interviewing Terry’s agent, Tricia Lawrence, from Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Sarvinder: Hello Tricia Dear, Thank you for joining us as we celebrate the launch of Terry’s new board book, Mama Loves You So

Tricia: Terry is a writer with so many talents, from early readers to picture books, to board books, which is what we’re celebrating today, and this book, be still my heart, is the sweetest board book you’ll ever see. 

I know we have a lot of people who want to learn more about you as an agent. Are you an editorial agent? Do you give feedback for revisions before sending out to clients?

mama-loves-butterfly3I am an editorial agent, alas. I have been a freelance editor for almost 22 years and I can’t stop now. 😉  Yes, but revisions are not a guarantee. Sometimes, the manuscript is ready, so out it goes. Other times, the author and I revise together. tricia-lawrence

How many queries do you average per month? What percent are picture books, middle grade or young adult?

It really varies. Sometimes, there’s a lot to go read. I would say the majority of what I read are picture books currently.

What percent of queries do you take on?

Less than 1%. 

mama-loves-foxWhat do you see a lot of, in terms of repetitive ideas? 

Too-short and too-sweet manuscripts or overly long and too-sweet. Not that sweet isn’t good, but I see a lot of that same note sweet manuscript.mama-loves-butterfly

What is a common mistake writers make?                                                                mama-loves-butterfly2

Assuming that writing a picture book is easier than writing a novel. 

As a picture book writer, I LOVE that answer. What are you looking for and not looking for?

  I am looking for everything. I’m having to be super particular with picture books because I have to fit a new writer into a list of picture book authors (like Terry!) that I am already representing. I don’t want any of my clients to compete with each other.

What are some of your processes for considering a future client’s manuscript?

Read the text a few times, both to myself and aloud. Think about if the manuscript(s) feel too similar to what is out there on the market and then if not, think about if the manuscript(s) feel too similar to what my actual clients are already writing or planning to write.mama-loves-you-so-bear

How long does this process usually take?

It varies. For most of my submissions, I know this really quickly. Some, though, I have to sit on for a bit.

Do you respond to every query, or just those you are interested in? What is your usual response time?

mama-loves-butterfly2I respond to every query. I am extremely backlogged from 2016. I wish I could be faster, but my actual clients and their writing and submissions must come first.

How does one submit to you? (I assume look on the guidelines of the submissions page)

I’m closed to unsolicited submissions (as is all of EMLA), so if a writer wants to query me, they should attend a conference where I’m speaking.

What spoke to you about Terry’s manuscripts when she first queried you?

Terry had a real sensibility with her texts. She has a very good sense of fun and whimsy and is able to balance the sweet with beautiful words and a cohesive theme, so it doesn’t come across as too-sweet.tpierceheadshotucla-2

What’s next for you and Terry? 

Terry’s got some exciting things she’s working on that I’m very ready to talk about, but first we’re so excited about MAMA LOVES YOU SO going out to the world. It’s just a wonderful book and is just so lovely.

Sarvinder: Thank you so much Tricia for taking the time to answer these questions and to help celebrate the launch of Terry’s lovely lilting lullaby, Mama Loves You So. Congratulations to both of you!  XOXO
Visit Terry’s website at

sarvinder-naberhaus-1200Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.


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MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN: interview with Terry Pierce & Carol Schwartz


I had the privilege of meeting author Terry Pierce a couple of years ago at a retreat. Her new book is brilliantly beautiful–a dream come true for science teachers. This book has gorgeous illustrations, as well as a bit of mystery. Who is lurking? And what is the surprise? Find out in this playful rhyme.

Terry is giving away a FREE COPY!!!  Just leave a comment below to enter.

I chose to ask the same questions to both the author and illustrator, to gain two different perspectives. Terry is the author of more than a dozen books, and Carol has illustrated more than 3 dozen!

Welcome Terry and Carol. I’m honored to be able to interview the duo that created this delightful book.

🐞 What inspires you?

Terry: Nature. Most of my books have some aspect of nature in them. I’ve always been drawn to the natural world. Whether it’s the mountains, the beach, the desert or simply observing a beautiful garden, nature fascinates me. As a child, I could sit in a tree for hours! As an adult, I don’t climb trees anymore but still find myself in nature for long periods of time. It’s calming, peaceful and inspiring.

Carol: Nature, the endless wonder and beauty of it all, inspires me every day. I take great pleasure in the study and research of creatures and plants. They reveal patterns, designs, colors, texture and uniqueness. There is so much to learn and interpret through my art.

🐞 How long have you been doing your craft?

PierceHeadshotUCLA (2)Terry: I started writing for children in 1999. For ten years, I attended SCBWI events and read books to develop my writing skills. Then in 2009, I began the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program, which deepened my craft knowledge tenfold. It’s an amazing program I highly recommend.

Carol: I like to say I’ve been practicing my craft all my life. My mother says that at the age of a year and a half I drew a picture of Mickey Mouse and it looked like Mickey. I started illustrating children’s books in 1989 with a local publisher in Maryland where I lived at the time. Two years later I had an agent and a Hyperion Press trade book, Sea Squares, by Joy Hulme. Now sixty books later, I am still energized with each new project. They are all so different and, fortunately, there are tools I’ve learned throughout my career that help me to navigate the challenges associated with illustrating a picture book.

🐞 What kind of medium do you use?

Terry: I always write my first draft of a picture book with pencil and notepad. I love the feel of writing by hand as the words flow from my brain through my arm to my hand, then finally onto the paper. Doing it this way also slows the process, allowing me to be more mindful of my writing. After the first (very messy) draft, I type the story onto my computer and revise on printed drafts.

carol-schwartzCarol: I work primarily in gouache, an opaque watercolor paint. The opaque or transparent quality, depending on how thick the paint is mixed, make this medium versatile. Gouache is quick drying, which means no waiting time. That comes in handy when working under a deadline, which is most of the time. I also work in Photoshop. It has become indispensable in creating final art for books. I make a high resolution scan of my traditional work and continue to paint in Photoshop. Many details I used to hand render are now finished in Photoshop. In past years I depended on an airbrush for adding large smooth backgrounds or creating smooth textures. Now I use Photoshop to do the same thing.

🐞 How did you get started in the industry?

Terry: I casually mentioned to a friend that I wanted to try writing children’s books. She told me about the SCBWI so I joined. They’re a fantastic organization for anyone who wants to learn to write for kids. They’re what got me started and pushed me in the right direction. If it weren’t for my local SCBWI chapter, I wouldn’t have had my early publication successes.

Carol: I graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute, spending my senior year at Rhode Island School of Design in a mobility program. This gave me a good foundation to be an illustrator. When I decided to concentrate on illustrating picture books, I began attending every conference and workshop I could find. At a seminar in Maryland I signed up to have my portfolio critiqued by an artist’s representative. In time she became my agent and I began illustrating a long line of trade books for publishers such as Hyperion, Scholastic, Grosset & Dunlap and Sterling.

🐞 What is a good piece of advice you would give?

Terry: This is the toughest question! There’s so much good advice to give but what rings true to them all is to be persistent. Keep at it even when the going gets extraordinarily tough (and it will!). No matter what phase of writing you’re in, whether you’re developing your craft, submitting your work, or marketing your work, don’t give up! Identify your mistakes, learn from them and keep going. If you learn and persist, you’ll find success.

Carol: Believe in what you are doing. Become a mini expert in whatever the subject matter is you are illustrating or writing about. Find a way to get really excited about the subject. For me, its research that gives me inspiration and lets me know how to illustrate my subject.

🐞 Do you like gardening? Why did you choose to illustrate this book?

Terry: When I was a Montessori teacher, we had a school garden and I greatly enjoyed gardening with the children. There’s something about putting your hands in the soil, being close the earth, caring for the seedlings and watching them grow to maturity that’s amazing for kids. But that’s not what this book is really about…it’s about what happens in a garden! So why did I write it?

I had decided I wanted to write a cumulative story (where the text builds on itself). I recalled that my Montessori students LOVED Arnold Lobel’s cumulative book, THE ROSE IN MY GARDEN. I looked at that story as a mentor text. Of course, my story had to be different (his showcased flowers), so I pondered how I might keep the same setting, but change the focus, plot and characters. I knew most kids love bugs so I decided to focus on bugs and other animals that inhabit a garden. Then when I got the idea to include the surprise element of the developing chrysalis I was ready to write (which meant a lot of playing with words—my favorite part of writing!).

Carol: I am a long time gardener and much of what I know I learned by illustrating gardening articles for the Home section of The Washington Post newspaper. Much of my gardening has been in the Mid-Atlantic region but I’ve also tended gardens in the South and Midwest. Working to make plants grow and being rewarded with flowers makes me smile. What could be better that illustrating that happy feeling of growing all those beautiful flowers with my paints.

🐞 What are some of your favorite insects?

Terry: When I was a kid, I loved “wooly bears.”  fuzzy
I mean, what kid could resist picking one up one of these cute little fuzzy guys? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out they turn into tiger moths!

As an adult, I think one of the coolest insects is the praying mantis (which also happens to be one of my favorite illustrations in the book!). Praying mantises are the rule-breakers of insects. They’re the only one that can turn their head 180 degrees (imagine the advantage that gives them), and after mating the female bites off the male’s head! And the way they hold their front legs ready to strike their prey, yeah, mantises are pretty cool.

Carol: I love how dragonflies and praying mantises look like big, alien creatures. Beetles are interesting because they come in an amazing variety of shapes sizes, colors and patterns. Who doesn’t like butterflies and moths for their many colors and patterns? I respect ants for their eusocial society but I hate coming in contact with them, especially fire ants.

🐞 As a child, what were your favorite books?

fave-books2Terry: I loved any of Dr. Seuss’s books. CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E. B. White was another favorite, along with GENTLE BEN by Walt Morey and RASCAL by Sterling North. Even as a child, books with nature and/or animals appealed to me. Oh, and PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren was a girl after my own heart. Being a tomboy, I saw myself in Pippi. I probably read that book perched in a tree!

fave-booksCarol: I remember favorite childhood books as old friends, there was Charlotte’s Web, Alice in Wonderland, Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh and Marguerite de Angeli’s Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes. I had a bookcase full of Little Golden Books and two large volumes of nature books, Children’s Guide to Knowledge. That’s where I learned of extraordinary creatures such as giant clams, flying squirrels and a strange bird with an extra long tail called a quetzal. Those books fascinated me and, I believe, were the start of my love of nonfiction.

🐞Terry is giving away a FREE signed copy of MY BUSY GREEN GARDEN. Just add a comment below to enter.

If you’d like to know more about Terri and Carol, please visit their websites:


Bug jar:

Make a footprint grasshopper:

Make a colourful paper chain caterpillar with  wobbly eyes and antennae:


About the interviewer: Sarvinder Naberhaus is a the author of Boom Boom, a picture book about the seasons, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Her upcoming book, Blue Sky White Stars is a patriotic salute to the flag and the forces behind the forging of this great nation. Look for it June 13th, in time for the 4th of July. Illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Kadir Nelson.


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