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February 2021

If you know Tamara Ellis Smith at all, you know that she is a heart-out person. She wears her heart where everybody can see it, and everything she does is connected to her heart. 

This is as true of her writing as anything else, of course. 

Tam started writing a manuscript about grief a couple of years ago when her family had lost some loved ones unexpectedly. GRIEF IS AN ELEPHANT wound its way through the revision and submission process and finally landed with Victoria Rock at Chronicle, who continued to work with Tam on it until she was ready to make an offer.

In a tragic twist, Tam’s father suddenly developed cardiac issues and was hospitalized. She read him the manuscript as he lay dying, and within a few days, we had the offer from Victoria to publish this picture book—which now, of course, has even more meaning than it did before. I know that Tam’s loss and her aching heart will lead her to comfort for her readers, and they in turn will comfort others, and so on. To quote Tam’s text, “Listening becomes light."

Victoria signed the remarkable Nancy Whitesides (represented by Rebecca Sherman at Writers House) to illustrate. In the story, grief evolves, first appearing as an elephant, and ultimately in the form of a firefly; we can’t wait to see Nancy bring her own heart to the visuals of this story. It is scheduled to release in spring 2023.

Many congratulations to you, Tam.


It’s time to celebrate another splendiferous picture book pairing—a real gem and future classic in the making, from celebrated author Elaine Vickers. Here is the deal listing . . .

Sylvie Frank at S&S/Wiseman has acquired HOW TO MAKE A MEMORY by Elaine Vickers. This poignant picture book celebrates memory and its place in helping us hold dear life’s precious moments. Ana Aranda will illustrate. Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency represented the author and Adriana Dominguez with Full Circle Literary represented the illustrator, both for world rights. Publication is slated for Spring 2023.

This gorgeous text draws on some of the deepest and most meaningful moments we share as humans—and guides us step by step in capturing and celebrating them in the most powerful way possible. I absolutely adore this book, and I can’t wait for you all to fall in love with it, too.—And how about that dream team of creators?!!

Huge congratulations, Elaine!


Oh, do I love announcing deal announcements for debut authors! There is something so exciting about a new voice poised to make way into readers’ hearts…

Our latest is Christina Wyman, who caught the eye of the fabulous Joy Peskin at FSG with an essay in the Washington Post  about how wearing masks has been a gift for someone who has always been subconscious about her smile—in Christina’s case, due to having grown up with a facial deformity.  At the bottom of the piece in the bio: "She is working on a children’s book.” Joy reached out, and the rest is history! Well somewhere in there, I was looped in, and offered representation, and now I’m lucky to be along for this ride.

Here’s the official announcement:

Joy Peskin at FSG has acquired, in an exclusive submission, JAWBREAKER, a debut middle-grade novel about a seventh-grader with a craniofacial anomaly that’s caught the attention of her school bullies—including her own sister, for publication in spring 2023. Author Christina Wyman, like the novel’s protagonist, grew up with a Class II malocclusion, which affected the shape of her jaw and therefore her teeth and her smile. Erin Murphy at Erin Murphy Literary Agency brokered the deal for world rights. 

I’m so excited about the perspective that Christina brings to this audience. In addition to the facial differences and the bullying, Christina draws on her experience growing up in a family where money was scarce, causing its own set of stresses. The journey that protagonist Max takes in this story is full of growth and self-acceptance, and of moving toward the light in dark times. It’s going to be beautiful.

Christina has been publishing a lot of wonderful essays lately, so give her a Google! Some are under the name Christina Berchini and some under Christina Wyman. In her day job, she is Dr. Wyman, college professor, who was awarded one of two honorable mentions for NCTE’s 2017 National Intellectual Freedom Award for her work in furthering conversations on race and racism.

So many congratulations, Christina!


It’s such a delight to share a first, and today’s deal announcement is a perfect example of this, as talented middle-grade author and poet Anne Ylvisaker has turned her attention to the picture book sphere. One day not too long ago, she sent me a charming and delightful text that was directly inspired by some of her classroom interactions with inquisitive, energetic, dinosaur-loving kids.

Needless to say, it made a smashing story! And I’m not the only one who thought so. Here’s the deal announcement that makes it all official:

Amy Novesky at Cameron Kids has bought world rights to Iamasaurus by Anne Ylvisaker and illustrated by Mark Hoffmann, a picture book about the striking similarities between kids and dinosaurs. Publication is scheduled for spring 2022; Ammi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary represented the author, and Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary represented the illustrator.

Between you (all) and me, I have to say that I just got a peek at the art sketches and they have *knocked my socks off*. I can’t wait for this amazing book to be in the world!

Congratulations, Anne!

- Joan

Kersten Hamilton’s book about the evolution of dogs and humans and the evolution of their relationship to each other, called FIRST FRIEND, debuted last week and it will blow you away! Kersten perfectly marries poetry, universal emotions, and science in one very satisfying package (illustrated by Jaime Kim).

And now she’s doubling down on dogs with WHAT’S UP, PUP?, which shows kids how dogs communicate with each other. Both books are with Janine O’Malley at FSG, and this time, Janine has brought on Lili Chin, known worldwide for her dog behavior infographics, to illustrate. 

It’s going to be dynamite! In fact, if I were a dog, I’d be wagging my tail about it.

Congratulations, Kersten!


My family always grew very attached to our cars. There was the dirt-cheap Subaru hatchback we got for a song from a junkyard and the car I used to learn to drive stick. The trunk lid was busted, so we had a handy stick in the trunk to prop it up while we loaded groceries, or a bale of straw for my sister's rabbits. We called it the “sube” or "the little car." A friend tried to get us to give it an actual name, but whatever w named it is lost to time now. Kim Rogers’ A LETTER FOR BOB is a lovely and heartfelt picture book text about the love a family has for their car. With Jonathan Nelson’s fantastic illustrations, this is going to be so good. I consider it a tribute to our long-lost “little car” as well.

Cynthia Leitich Smith and Rosemary Brosnan at Heartdrum have acquired North American rights to A Letter for Bob by Just Like Grandma author Kim Rogers (Wichita), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Navajo), about a family that says goodbye to their beloved car, Bob. Publication is scheduled for summer 2023; Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary represented the author, and the illustrator represented himself. 

Congratulations, Kim!


Savvy fans of Maria Gianferrari’s will know how much she loves dogs, and what a big role they play in her body of work. (Current stats run at 61% for books sold that include dogs :)) Some months back, Maria sent me a new PB manuscript about some of the wonderful lessons we can learn from our four-legged pals. And what a delight it was! I was enchanted by the text, and so equally was my agent colleague Kirsten Hall—who in turn passed it to her illustrious superstar illustrator Pete Oswald. 

And so, a book was born! One aggressive preempt later, here is the result of that roundup of inspiration:

Nancy Inteli at Harper Collins Children’s has preempted world rights to Maria Gianferrari’s BEING A DOG: A TAIL OF MINDFULNESS, with illustrations by #1 NYT Bestselling artist Pete Oswald. This warm and accessible picture book takes us right into the world of mindfulness that our four-legged friends come to so naturally, with a reminder that the very best things in life are not only shared—but lived, felt, and experienced. The two-book deal was managed by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary Agency for the author and Kirsten Hall of Catbird Productions for the illustrator. The first book is planned for winter 2022.

Not one but TWO books to look forward to from this dynamic duo! If that’s not something to howl about, I don’t know what is.

Huge congratulations, Maria!

- Joan

Agent Miranda Paul here to tell you that I think book deals are…delicious. Chana Stiefel’s latest is no exception—and it was recently announced in Publisher’s Weekly


Watch out for more from Chana Stiefel, since she’s been busy cooking up a lot of great news. Her forthcoming book Let Liberty Rise received a starred review from School Library Journal. Plus, she’s got some sweet new work simmering that we can’t wait to let you get a taste of…soon. 


And now let’s hear from the humorous chef herself, with the exclusive recipe of how she wrote her latest book. Aspiring writers, take note!


By Chana Stiefel

½ baked picture book idea

9 drafts (probably more)

6 or more wonderful critique partners

A sprinkle of silly puns (to taste)

1 fabulous agent*

1 editor who loved it (it only takes one!)**

1 fun illustrator*** 

Mash all ingredients together!

Add toast! 


* Agent Miranda Paul at Erin Murphy Literary Agency

** Thank you, Tamar Mays at HarperCollins!

***Anna Suessbauer, I can’t wait to see how you make Avocado come to life!

 Chana’s recent birthday swag