Pandas, poems, and problems galore! Today’s books will inspire you to write a story or poem of your own. Plus, author Deborah Underwood shares her foolproof recipe for a good story.

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Julie's Library: Poetree
“Poetree” written by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani. Copyright © 2019. Used with permission of Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.

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Julie's Library: Panda Problem
“The Panda Problem” written by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Hannah Marks. Copyright © 2019. Used with permission of Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.


Image by illustrator Shahrzad Maydani.
Shahrzad Maydani

Illustrator Shahrzad Maydani wrote Poetree under unexpected circumstances!

“I would describe the process of making Poetree as a dream for two reasons: One being that I had the opportunity to work with a group of very talented women (Namrata Tripathi, Lily Malcom, Mina Chung, and the author Shauna LaVoy Reynolds) and two, as dreams usually go, a lot of the details are a blur. I had recently given birth to my second daughter and started working on Poetree when she was about 3 months old. I can remember holding her while drawing more times than not, working in 15-minute increments, storyboarding through tantrums, feedings, and sketching in between naps. And so, I'd say the process was a mix of a lot of hard work, coffee, and magic!” - Shahrzad Maydani, illustrator of Poetree

Image by illustrator Shahrzad Maydani.
Shahrzad Maydani

We also spoke to illustrator Hannah Marks about how she got into drawing and we were surprised to hear she’s relatively new to the field!

Illustration by Hannah Marks
Hannah Marks

“I got into illustration almost by accident. I'd created some alien characters for a project I was working on and when my husband saw them he said that I should think about illustrating children's books. I don't have any training in illustration, and at the time it seemed like everyone else in the industry had a degree, but I built up my portfolio and kept plugging away at agents, and in 2015 I was accepted for representation by Astound US.” — Hannah Marks, illustrator of The Panda Problem

Illustration by Hannah Marks
Hannah Marks


We chatted with authors Shauna Reynolds and Deborah Underwood about writing today’s books, and they both hope their stories will inspire kids to write!

“I wanted to write a story about a shy girl who makes sense of her feelings and the world around her by writing poetry. Sylvia finds great joy in nature and in weaving words together to create poems. She feels awkward at school, but a poetry lesson from Ms. Oliver gives her a chance to shine. Her poems, plus a very special tree, help her discover an unexpected friend. I want all young readers to know that they can be poets, too!” — Shauna Reynolds, author of Poetree

“I often tell kids that if they want to write a story but feel stuck, one way to get started is to think of a character, then think of a problem the character might have. One day I wondered what would happen if the character didn’t have a problem and didn’t want a problem. Voilà! The Panda Problem was born! I hope the book inspires kids to have fun writing their own stories—and I hope their characters are more cooperative than Panda is!” — Deborah Underwood, author of The Panda Problem


Think up a BIG problem, and write a rhyme about it! The problem can be silly or serious. Maybe the monster under your bed has a bad dream, and climbs into your bed looking for comfort! Or maybe your rhyme is about climate change, and the ways it’s impacting your world. 

Send us your rhymes written out, or record yourself saying them. Whatever path you take, we want to see and hear your most creative ideas!


Julie's Library: Also An Octopus

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
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Julie's Library: Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street by Roni Schotter

Nothing Ever Happens On 90th Street by Roni Schotter
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Julie's Library: The Best Story

The Best Story by Eileen Spinelli
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Narrator (noun): Someone who explains all the action or events in a story. Sometimes narrators start a story with the words, “Once upon a time…”

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