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Cover, Snutt the Ift, by Helen Ward. Available from Little Pickle Press

Every once in a great while a perfect children’s book comes along. Snutt the Ift: A Small but Significant Chapter in the Life of the Universe, published in America by Little Pickle Press, is one of those books. Written and illustrated by Helen Ward and originally published in the United Kingdom as Wonderful Life, the book relates the story of a small space-traveling animal who finds himself far from home and lonely. And then something wonderful happens.

Author and illustrator Helen Ward's studio

I won’t spoil it for you, but it truly is wonderful. Ward tells her story in spare, delicate, and evocative prose, but that’s just the start. She creates a fantastical watercolor world of blossiblums, butterflings, and whishgrass in her illustrations that young children will almost recognize. That slight dissonance provides a great springboard for discussions about the single greatest unspoken question of the book: Has Snutt found us? Does the dissonance in names and images reflect earth through the eyes of a small, weaselish scientist? Or is this another planet entirely?

The book also provides a way to introduce children to the natural world–how are butterflies like butterflings? How are they different? Just what kind of animal is Snutt? What kind of flowers does he discover? Do we have any here? You and your child will have many happy hours exploring along with Snutt.

All in all this book is a happy combination of poetic art and artistic copy, the kind of thing that can happen when an enormously talented writer and an enormously talented illustrator happen to share a body. Snutt’s story is printed using soy inks on recycled paper (to keep our wonderful corner of the universe wonderful). This is a beautiful, gentle book, just right for a bedtime story.

Author and Illustrator Helen Ward

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Be sure to enter the grand prize drawing for NINE Little Pickle Press books including the two foreign-language titles. What a great gift for some lucky child. Just sign up for the newsletter at http://www.littlepicklepress.com to automatically be entered. While you’re there, look at all the award-winning books. Good luck!

Tomorrow Snutt explores the Circle of Friends blog–catch up with him there.

Writing Prompt: One of the things that Helen Ward does well is play with perspective–readers are shown Snutt’s world from a dizzying variety of angles. Conversely, Snutt’s perspective–his view of his surroundings–remains consistent. It’s one of the things that helps readers to understand his character. Choose a character you know well–it might be someone in your writing, or someone in your life–and look at the world through his or her eyes for a few minutes. In what ways is this person’s perspective consistent with yours? In what ways is it different? Why?

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It’s hard to know quite what to do with a headline like that. I wrote it, and realized it evoked images of Judgment Day, and in my case, the sorts of images that make me jump up and bump the AC setting down by about ten degrees. I thought of changing the title, but really, what else could I call this post? Past Lives, Reviewed is exactly what I’m going to be talking about. Yes, gentle readers, the little collection of short stories that grew out of my foray into past-life regression, the little collection that somehow leapfrogged my more ambitious memoir about being a single mother that has been trapped in the doldrums of Final Revisions for, lo, these many months … where was I?

Oh, yes. Past Lives: A Journey has been on Amazon for a few months now. There’s been absolutely no fanfare. I approved the final proof. It hit Amazon. I’m still waiting for the Kindle edition to get finished. That little book has just been sitting there quietly, waiting for me to get off my sit-upon and actually do some marketing, or at the very least a signing. Imagine my delight to discover that, in spite of my sloth, Past Lives has gotten its first review, and a very nice one it is, by one of my favorite writers, Marian Allen. You can learn more about her here. And you should. Go. But finish reading this first.

I mean, this is a woman who is entitled to an opinion. Here’s what she said:

To be fair, I think I would have given this five stars if the author hadn’t been so honest.

This book is a series of stories written in response to past-life regression exercises. As a matter of full disclosure, I hereby state that, although I bought the book, I did so because I had read a couple of the stories on Bodie’s blog, and knew they were beautiful.

Heartbreaking to joyful, it’s cleansing and healing to follow this writer’s journey through these vicarious (or allegorical?) explorations of experiences of one person’s oppression by another.

The experience and the catharsis are valid for persons of either gender, although the stories of “the woman in the red dress” speak most clearly to female readers.

Highly recommended. Oh–the problem with the honesty? I wanted more stories. I didn’t CARE if this was all there actually were in the set, I wasn’t ready for them to be over! Again: Highly recommended.

Thank you, Marian. Thank you ever so much.

Now, about the “more stories” thing. You’ll be pleased to know, Marian, that Benchmarks: A Single Mother’s Illustrated Journal should have cleared the last of the editing shoals and be ready to set sail by around the end of this week. It should be on Amazon by the end of next week. One of the reasons this book is taking so long is because I’ve made the decision to produce it in several ways in order to appeal to a broader audience. The illustrated version is the Cadillac of the series. It’s 8.5 x 8.5 inches, full color, and it includes numerous paintings done by yours truly. It’s truly lovely, but all that lovely carries with it a price. And in times like these I understand that it’s a price some might find prohibitive. So I’m also producing the book as a small, trade paperback, suitable for tucking into a purse, briefcase, or diaper bag—think of it as the Hyundai version. It doesn’t have all the lovely paintings, the rich color, and the abundant size, but it’s priced within just about anyone’s budget. And, since I’m finding that e-books are playing an increasingly significant role in my sales, I’m also going to be producing Benchmarks on Kindle, as well as in a color, graphic e-book format, if all goes well. These will be the razor skateboards of the group, so to speak.

But that’s not all. I’m also developing a line of related products through CafePress. The idea is to provide a number of sales alternatives designed to appeal to a broad range of readers. I can do this, of course, because I do my own design and because I make use of the online tools available. You should try it; it takes time, but very little money.

And since we’re being honest here, I should probably say that I had tucked a few more stories into Past Lives, but ultimately decided to remove them to preserve the integrity of the collection. Removed they may have been, but those stories have been neither discarded nor forgotten. I’m beginning work on a less exclusive collection of stories even now, one that I think will include “The Girl Who Could Fly,” and “The Fattest Woman in the World,” The story that provided the germ that is even now growing into my first Young Adult novel, The Flying Walinskis. When they’ll see the light of day I couldn’t possibly guess, since one of the things publishing has taught me is that everything takes longer than you expect, but it’ll happen. It’ll happen … it’ll happen … Stay tuned.

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