Friday, February 13, 2015

Sun Vs. Snow Afterparty Blog Hop

Hello to all my readers! This post is a fun blog hop for the Sun Vs. Snow writing contest Afterparty! I'm awaiting comments of critique from fellow writers in preparation to enter my picture book in some contests later this year. Feel free to chime in even if you aren't participating in the blog hop; all comments are welcome!


Genre: Ages 3-5 Picture Book
Word Count: 300


For Mikayla, a trip to the park with Mama makes for an extraordinary day. This time, it’s a brisk winter afternoon, and Mikayla and Mama set out for the swings to play one of their favorite games. With each squeal of “under doggy”, Mikayla transforms into something new: A penguin diving for a fish dinner, a shooting star granting a special wish, and even a bounding “astronaut on the moon, planting a star-freckled flag.” And Mama has a part in each of her six adventures.

In the vein of Sheep on a Ship and Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow, UNDER DOGGY is a picture book with a family hook, and is aimed at ages 3-5. This is a simultaneous submission and you will find the full manuscript of 300 words pasted below.

I’m an SCBWI member. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

First 250 words:

I skip and scoot along the icy gray sidewalk,

Holding Mama’s snow-soft hand all the way to the park.

I romp and race to the shiny, black swing,
And plop down on the seat, waiting for…


“Okay Mikayla, are you ready?”
She asks as she holds it steady.

Mama swooshes the swing.
And we both scream with glee,
As loud as we can, “UNDER DOGGY!”

Then I ring and ding, a bell in a tower.
I sway in the frosty sunlight, clanging a banging song for…


She grabs the chains and runs under me.
Giggling again, we both squeal, “UNDER DOGGY!”

Then I shoot and soar, a star in the winter sky.
I shine in the night, granting a special wish for…


She grabs the chains and runs under me.
Giggling again, we both shriek, “UNDER DOGGY!”

Then I bound and bounce, an astronaut on the moon.
I float in the dust, planting a star-freckled flag for…


She grabs the chains and runs under me.
Giggling again, we both shout, “UNDER DOGGY!”

Then I dart and dive, a penguin in the ocean.
I catch some silvery fish, fetching dinner for…


She grabs the chains and runs under me.
Giggling again, we both screech, “UNDER DOGGY!”

Then I fly and flutter, a gull flapping in the fog.
I dodge sails, and land on the ship of…


She grabs the chains and runs under me.
Giggling again, we both scream, “UNDER DOGGY!”

Then I spring and spin, an acrobat in the circus.


  1. Hello!
    This is the first time I’ve ever done a critique for a PB, so I’ll do my best :)
    In your first paragraph of your query, I would put “under doggy” as “UNDER DOGGY!” just as it is in your text.
    “This is a simultaneous submission and you will find the full manuscript of 300 words pasted below.” – break into two sentences.
    I would also recommend adding more to your bio. Make yourself memorable to the agent reading the query letter.
    Though I don’t know much about what sells in PBs, I do have a 2.5yo and a 4yo and they would love this book! So from that point of view, I think you did a great job with it!


  2. Hi, Your story is beautifully written, very visual. When I first read it, I was confused. I thought Mikayla was a dog who went to the park with its young owner. On second read through I knew that couldn't be right as Mikayla held her mother's hand and a dog can't do that! The phrase "under doggy" was what caused my confusion. Do you think a different magic phrase might be better? Or maybe it's just me! LOL As to your bio, if you don't have any writing credits, it's fine. If you have small children, you might mention that, or give a reason why you write children stories. I loved the name Mikayla. My niece's name is spelled the same way. She'd loved this story!

  3. All I know about picture books is reading them with my kids, so I'm not sure I can be much help with your query. I loved the story and the under doggy game. I really like how you combined the repetitive "Giggling again" with different ways of shouting "under doggy." The only line I was caught on was: "She asks as she holds it steady." Maybe: She asks, holding the swing steady.

    Good luck with this.

  4. Hello, This is a beautifully crafted book. I played Under Doggie when I was little and also with my kids. You did a wonderful job. I only have two critique comments. 1- Eliminate the word 'then' after each "under doggie" I think it will read the same and tighten the script. 2- you obviously know how to write children's books, tell the editor, publisher or agent what your qualifications are and how you became credible in this genre. being a caretaker of children, a parent, or a lover and reader of children's books all make you personable. Great work!

  5. Love this - I could see pictures along the lines of Runaway Bunny, except with words on every page (I know agents get down on comparisons to the classics in a query, but, informally, I find they're classics for a reason). I read a lot of picture books to my 4-year-old, so I should probably know this, but should you intersperse rhyming couplets with non-rhyming couplets?

  6. The query's strong, I think - I was confused by the whole "under doggie" phrasing, but from Traci's comment, I assume it's a fairly well-known game?

    First 250 words:

    *I romp and race to the shiny, (delete comma) black swing

    *“Okay Mikayla, are you ready?”
    She (small letter on "she") asks as she holds it steady.

    This sounds very pretty! The writing is lovely, and it's a clear simple idea, very sweet. ^_^ You might think about formatting it differently, though - when I've read picture book submissions, the text comes as a script stating which text goes on which page. Though that may be more for those submissions which come with illustrations as well.

  7. I love picture books that invite kids to play along. i can just imagine my own two (now 14 and 16) screaming "under doggey" whenever we'd get to that part. Very cute. I also like the close connection the MC has with Mama.

    My only question - Should a picture book have an ending? Getting off the swings and going home? It seems to end abruptly with the acrobat in the circus.

    Nice work. Good luck.

  8. I'm no PB expert, but I like this! And I hope I can help. I got an MFA in Popular Fiction, and I remember from workshops in the program that PB writers had their manuscripts denote what page what text went on (as someone commented above). Just thought I'd mention, too - maybe something to look into if you haven't already?

    In the fifth paragraph of the 250, should the "She" in "She asks" be lowercase?

    I was also bit confused by the phrase "under doggy," but as someone else mentioned, if it's a popular game, then I'm sure you're fine there.

    Other than that I really don't have much to say. I thought it was very sweet, even though I didn't get to see the ending (since there wasn't enough room). Good luck with it!

  9. So I have no idea how to critique picture books! Also, it's illustrated, right? So I don't know how useful my comments are on the first 250 without accompanying art... so take my comments with a grain of salt..

    Query: Sounds so fun! Does Mikayla literally transform? If anything, I would make the game "under doggy" the motivation of the story, like it's the best game ever that only her and her mommy share, rather than beginning with a trip to the park. I think I would want to pick up a book that shows me this amazing secret game Mikayla plays so I can learn to play it too. Also, not sure why astronaut is in quotes and not the rest of the scenarios?

    First 250: Hm, so it's basically a pretend game on a swing they play? Who decides what she's going to become? From her mom's perspective, they just scream UNDER DOGGY every time she pushes her daughter, and then the imagination goes. I also connect the shooting star with the swing, but not necessarily the rest. And is there an ending (that got cut off)?

    Obviously no kid is going to be this analytical, but I imagine agents might want something with a little more than just "here are some various scenarios of playing pretend on a swing"