I first “met” our October featured author for 12 x 12 in 2012, Dianne de Las Casas, last November when I became aware of the first annual Picture Book Month and became an ambassador (as I am this year). Like Dianne, I was incensed by the now infamous NYT article slamming picture books in 2010. I suppose 12 x 12 was my subconscious retaliation. Dianne took more direct aim by founding Picture Book Month.

Since then, I’ve been inspired not only by Dianne’s passion and commitment to the art and craft of picture books, but also by her marketing mind. She too is a contributor to Katie DavisBrain Burps About Books, giving us her Take 5 Marketing Tips. I’ve learned loads from those little tidbits. 

If this is your first exposure to Dianne, you’re in for a treat. Not only does she have a great deal to say about writing and promoting picture books, she is giving one lucky 12 x 12 participant a 30-minute social media and marketing consultation. 

Picture Books Rock this World!

As founder of Picture Book Month, it is probably obvious to you that picture books are important to me. I began this campaign to give picture books the love and celebration they deserve. In fall of 2010, the New York Times published an article that declared the decline of the picture book. That article alone could have been my impetus to build a month-long celebration for picture books. But it was just the surface. There was something deeper. Picture books have touched my family in ways you can only imagine.

We live in the New Orleans area. On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast. We evacuated to Houston, Texas. My two daughters and I stayed in Houston for a year while my husband returned home to rebuild. Soleil was 15 at the time and Eliana was 5.

When we evacuated, we had to leave in a hurry and left everything behind, save for a week’s worth of clothes. The weeks following Katrina were emotional ones. We couldn’t return home – we were displaced. Being “displaced” doesn’t just mean being away from home, it means losing your sense of place and the security that a home provides. We felt like Max in Where the Wild Things Are. At first, being away from home was a big adventure but we soon came to miss everything familiar.

Fortunately, compassion was in abundance and people donated clothing, food, and toys. We were grateful for every gift but there was something missing – our book collection. At home, my daughters had shelves full of beloved books. Bonding over the shared experience of reading aloud, Soleil and I loved cuddling up with Eliana and reading picture books with her. But after the storm, we had not one single book.

So I began a letter writing campaign for books. Peter Reynolds, the author of The Dot and Ish, as well as numerous other books, was one of the first to respond with signed copies. Other books followed and soon, our new apartment in Houston became our home. I bought a bookshelf. We had books to put on them. In those days and months that followed the aftermath of Katrina, those books became our refuge. We found the comforts of home within the pages of books, especially picture books.

It has been seven years since Katrina and so much has changed. Since 2005, I truly dedicated myself to writing and now have 19 books published – 9 of them are picture books (and more are on the way)! Soleil works in graphic and web design, and Eliana is a 12 year old celebrity kid chef. My husband is proud of his girls and I’m sure there’s a picture book in this somewhere…

Picture books continue to rock my world. When Eliana was 6 years old, I gave her the book, Wow! It Sure is Good to be You! by Cynthia Jabar. The book said exactly what was in my heart every time I traveled away from home. I wrote notes in the book and glued pictures inside. To this day, when I read it, I cry… nostalgic tears. Just the other day, Eliana and I read Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex. We guffawed. And I mean we laughed until we cried… joyous tears.

Often, when I am in need of a gift for an adult, I turn to the venerable picture book. They are better at expressing emotion than any greeting card I’ve ever read. The picture book is 32 pages of joy, heart, healing, laughter, fun, security, thrills, and love.

During the month of November, visit picturebookmonth.com. Every day, you will find essays on the importance of picture books from such luminaries as Doreen Cronin, Chris Raschka, John Rocco, Jon Scieszka, Karma Wilson, Paul O. Zelinsky, and yes, even Peter Reynolds! Picture books will be celebrated around the world in blogs, in libraries, in schools, and in homes.

How important are picture books to you? Become a Picture Book Month Ambassador and wear the badge proudly on your website. Let’s show everyone that picture books rock this world!

November is Picture Book Month! Read * Share * Celebrate!

Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author of 19 books, a professonal storyteller, and founder of the international literacy initiative, Picture Book Month. She tours worldwide presenting revved-up author visit/storytelling programs, lively educator/librarian training, fun workshops, and inspiring artist residencies. Her picture books include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate, Dinosaur Mardi Gras, and Beware, Beware of the Big Bad Bear. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook. You can also find Picture Book Month on Twitter and Facebook.

Participants – to enter to win the consultation from Dianne, you must be an official challenger and leave a comment on this post (INCLUDING YOUR FIRST AND LAST NAME) any time during the month of October for one point. On October 31st, l’ll put a check-in post on the blog.  If you completed a picture book draft in October, you can let us know in the comments of that post for another point. I will draw a winner using Random.org and announce on November 2nd.

Categories: 12 x 12 Featured Author, 12 x 12 in 2012, Authors, Brain Burps About Books, Giveaway, Goals, Guest Blogging, Picture Book Month, Picture Books, Social Media, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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44 Comments

  1. Dianna is a great choice as we gear up to Picture Book Month. I have also been following her since November last year and just love all she does for this story form! I loved reading how healing picture books were to her family after Katrina! Great prize this month!
    Joanna Marple

  2. I remember very well listening to the radio and watching on tv of the affects of cyclone Katrina. My heart went out to the people caught in it, but how lovely for Dianne and her family of the generosity, and the books they received bringing such warmth and compansion. A lovely quest choice in the lead up to Picture Book Month.

  3. Thank you for sharing your passion for pb’s, Dianne! How neat your daughters were able to get a new collection of pb’s after Katrina. I enjoyed the inspiring blog posts last year for pb month! Thanks for the interview, Julie!
    ~Tina Cho

  4. I LOVE THIS!!!…

    ‘the venerable picture book – better at expressing emotion than any greeting card – 32 pages of joy, heart, healing, laughter, fun, security, thrills, and love.’

    They truly are works of art. Thank you for writing an inspiring article.
    Karen Kallis Cheesman

  5. It is hard for me to imagine all the desruction hurricane Katrina caused. I am sorry that happened to you. I will check out picturebookmonth.com! Thanks!
    Erik Weibel 🙂

  6. Of course I know of Dianne from Facebook and her Take 5 Marketing Tips. But I did not know what you and your family went through because of Hurricane Katrina. I’m glad picture books helped to make you more at home while away from home.
    I’ll be brandishing the Picture Book Month badge now. Looking forward to it!

  7. Wow, I’m so glad that books helped you get through everything!

    Nicole Zoltack

  8. I’d like to comment on the NYT article and your response. The NYT article shows a lack of understanding on many levels, but one struck me primarily. PB aren’t “easy” reading that kids progress out of. PB language dictates in almost every case that an adult or “higher” reader reads to a child. Kids don’t grow out of them before moving on to early readers.

    I believe the reason why parents are urging kids to read more on their own and move on to the early readers (if this is the case) is because in many cases, with both parents working and having less time, they are sometimes are not willing to prioritize reading to children. No doubt they’d like to read more to their kids, but life in our day and age has become so cluttered with activities that if a person doesn’t willfully set aside time to read to children, he or she will probably not.

    I think if parents understood the direct correlation between hearing the written word and a child’s ability to access language patterns for writing purposes later in their academic journey, they would try to make more time for this.

    And anyway, with picture books, what’s not to love?

  9. Hey Julie and Dianne! Great post Dianne. I was an ambassador last year. I plan on being one this year too, but my blog was hacked and it’s murder getting in to do anything. I have five or six posts scheduled for October and then I am going to start fresh with a WordPress blog. So thankful to see how picture books worked in your life. *waves peace sign* (Picture books are way better than greeting cards.) 🙂

  10. I plan to be an ambassador this year. Thank you. Stacy S. Jensen

  11. Yikes! I forgot to leave my name.

    Robyn Campbell from the above comment.

  12. Picture Book Month sounds like it is going to be wonderful! I’m looking forward to it. My son is 7 and still loves picture books, in addition to chapter books and graphic novels. I think this is an instance where the adults set the tone — if kids hear that picture books are “for babies,” they won’t want to read them. But more often then not, if the picture books are around, they’ll pick them up and look at them.

  13. Three cheers for picture books (and Dianne and Julie!).
    Wendy Greenley

  14. I love “the dragon in the library” book! what a great ambassador Dianne is…. last year I wrote a picture book review each week for a local weekly paper, and we raffled off the books at our library. So, yes – I think this month I’ll try to be an “official” ambassador – need to go find out the job description. Meanwhile, I really will get back to scribbling picture book manuscripts and getting ready for the November celebrations: Picture Book Month and PiBoIdMo!

  15. I can empathize with the emptiness of a house without picture books. There were few to no picture books in my house growing up. My first exposure was when I started school. I was immediately hooked. In my years as a 4th grade teacher, my 10 year olds were hooked as well. You are dead right about the 32 page message. 3rd and 4th graders love chapter books, but they love picture books just as much – maybe it’s the nostalgia and maybe it’s the message.

    Genevieve Petrillo

  16. Thank you, Dianne, for sharing your story with us — I know you from Facebook, and I’ve been following Kid Chef Eliana’s awesome progress, but I didn’t realize what you had gone through with Hurricane Katrina. I am so glad those authors helped you build Eliana’s library again, and I’m delighted that Peter H. Reynolds was the first to respond — he is such a wonderful man.

    The prize you are offering sounds fabulous, just the thing to help one of us take our online presence to the next level. I will keep my fingers crossed… And now I’m heading over to find out how to become a Picture Book Month Ambassador!

    Beth Stilborn

  17. Thanks, Dianne, for being such a champion of picture books. Looking forward to the month!

  18. Wow, Dianne! Thank you for the powerful story of how picture books enhance life and provide comfort. I am an Ambassador of PIcture Book Month, as I was last year. Thank you, thank you, thank you for championing the genre. I am now wanting to stop buying greeting cards and only by pb’s.
    Thank you! Happy Oct!

  19. Thanks Dianne for sharing your story on 12×12. I had no idea your family was affected by Katrina. So great that you were able to rebuild your home library. I listen to your Take 5 Marketing tips and read the essays from Picture Book Month last year. Would be happy to be an ambassador this year. Will add your badge to my site.

    Darshana Khiani

  20. Thanks for being such a champion of picture books.

  21. What a great story. I’m sorry to hear you lost your home, but glad that you and your family carried on. Yay to Picture Month!

    Rena Traxel (Boudreau)

  22. Wow, what a story! Glad you and your family pulled through okay. And how wonderful that you’ve become such a champion of picture books which are, truly, better than any greeting card! 🙂

  23. Dianne is probably THE MOST enthusiastic champion of picture books out there. Thanks for being in our 12×12 family! And thanks for having her, Julie. I hope you all get to meet her sometime…she is A FORCE!!

    Carter Higgins

  24. Dianne-I enjoyed hearing your story. I love your marketing tips on Brain Burps. Thanks for your passion for, & dedication to picture books.
    Penny Klostermann

  25. I feel like I know Dianne, since I feel like all my Brain Burps buddies and I have already met at some exclusive party (could I convince you that there was a Brain Burps party? It sounds good, doesn’t it? Alas, I’ve met not a one). Anyway, Dianne is a wonderful, enthusiastic brilliantly wise picture book advocate, writer, marketer, and Pinterest pinner. Yay, Dianne! Thanks for ushering us into October!

  26. Dianne, it’s nice to finally put a face with a voice. I hear you all the time on Katie Davis. Thanks for such a compelling testament to the Picture Book. I have to admit I had no idea you founded Picture Book month, but I did blog about it last year. Now I’ll go find out what I have to do to be an ambassador. Kirsten Larson

  27. Thank you so much, everyone, for your lovely comments and kind words. I look forward to celebrating Picture Book Month with all of you! Get ready…

  28. Thank you for sharing your story and passion for picture books. I’m looking forward to Picture Book Month.
    Erin Pearson

  29. Dianne…isn’t it amazing how God can turn even the tragedies of our lives into something good? Thanks for sharing a very personal and sensitive part of your life wth us, and for defending our beloved picture books. I’m looking forward to reading yours. Sounds like they have tons of “local color”!

    Jarm Del Boccio

  30. Wonderful choice of author, Julie, as we head towards Picture Book Month. So happy to learn its history. And thank you, Dianne, for sharing your story. I love the image of a picture book as an inspiring gift for adults as well as children.

  31. I love hearing Dianne’s marketing tips on Brain Burps. They’re always so practical and useful.

    Nessa Morris

  32. A great post and I’m intrigued by your daughter’s chef status! I wish I could get my kids to cook! 😉 They have a blog with recipes they try though. (Kids Creating cakes: Cooking For Kids)

  33. A heartfelt post, Dianne! How terrible to lose your home, but I’m glad that you were able to find refuge in picture books. It’s that refuge that drew me to picture books myself…as a child and as an adult! Thank you for the post Dianne & Julie!

    Dana Atnip

  34. Wow, what a story! I loved that you were able to rebuild your book collection, authors are so generous! I will definitely be an ambassador this year too!
    Jennifer Rumberger

  35. Dianne, so nice to meet you! (I’m new to this whole PB world). So sorry to hear of the Katrina hardships, yet it is wonderful to hear how your energy, enthusiasm and passion for Picture Books helped you to triumph and set such a wonderful example for your children. I look forward to hearing more of you and I would also like to set up as an ambassador for your Picture Book month on my fledgling blog. I will check out the link. Thanks, Julie for introducing Dianne. Blessings, Laura Anne Miller

  36. Picture books are a format, not an age designation. Pictures books are for always. Thank you for championing the cause.

    Sallie Wolf

  37. Proud to have that ambassador badge on my blog!

  38. Love Cathy’s comment, and I’ve hung out the ambassador badge with pride too!
    Julie Rowan-Zoch

  39. I love your devotion to putting picture books in the spotlight, where they truly belong.

  40. What an inspiring post! You’ve used the tragedy of Katrina to ignite something more positive.

  41. Thank you, Diane, for sharing part of your journey with us…and for founding “Picture Book Month”! I also read that article back in 2010…and was horrified…and even registered with the online NYT site so that I could post a comment. Many did that I’m sure…but only one person went the extra mile…or many miles…to found “Picture Book Month”. I don’t really know much about you…or being a Picture Book Ambassador…but I promise to find out! My love affair with picture books started over 60 years ago…and is stronger now than ever before. 🙂
    Vivian Kirkfield

  42. Thank you for sharing your story Dianne. Your enthusiasm and your passion for picture books is inspirational and powerful!
    Beth Thaler

  43. Thanks for the reminder about Picture Book Month–I haven’t picked up this year’s badge yet!

  44. Thank you all so much for your support of picture books! Today is the start of Picture Book Month. Hooray! Visit http://www.picturebookmonth.com to join the celebration!

    Thank you to Julie Hedlund for being such an amazing Picture Book Month Ambassador!

    Finally, for those of you who expressed interested in my 12 year old daughter… she is Kid Chef Eliana. You can Google her and will find her everywhere!

    Warmly,
    Dianne de Las Casas
    Founder, Picture Book Month

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