NUBBY is a 2024 Book All Young Georgians Should Read!

Filed under: Uncategorized | February 3, 2024

Thank you to the Georgia Center for the Book for this award!

Winter Worms and Wonder!

Filed under: Uncategorized | December 6, 2023
Hello friends,
Here we are in the last month of the year! I’m trying to be as simple as I can which still isn’t all that simple, but I’m trying :) My girls are 13 and 9 and I am very aware that my littlest won’t be a “kid” much longer, but for now…
(This comic was inspired by a moment with my 9-year-old. She even asked for a new Barbie Dream House this year!)
We visited my husband’s family in Colorado for Thanksgiving and exchanged Christmas gifts while we were there. My sister-in-law gave me a book called, “Unwrapping the Names of Jesus”. It’s an Advent devotional that is moving me to linger in the awe and wonder of Jesus in a way I haven’t in a long while. It’s very simple, and that’s just what my heart needs right now.
Also while visiting, this happened (between my 9-year-old and her grandma) but my daughter says that what reeeeally happened was that her grandma didn’t hear correctly. At any rate, it’s funnier this way! …
We also got to see some snow while we were there! And a little snow is a BIG snow if you’re a Georgia kid (or a worm)! And yes, we obviously do not know how to dress for such weather.
When we got home, it was time to send out those holiday cards (since we happened to have survived getting family pics taken in early November).
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, y’all! It’s such a gift to me that YOU are here!
Need a bookish gift idea? Here are 6…
If you’d like a SIGNED (by me) book, order here. They’re on sale FOR $12 each!  I ship quick too :)
If you enjoyed one of my books, I hope you’ll write a review on Amazon. Reviews truly help the discoverability and sales of books like mine.
Write a letter to Santa!
It’s a great time to practice writing letters (to Santa!) and Little Red and the Big Bad Editor can help make it extra fun to review things like using finger spaces, capital letters, and a greeting/closing. 
Here’s a free printable to color and write a letter on!
See ya next year!
Your Friend,

Talking Bot!

Filed under: Uncategorized | November 3, 2023

At a local school, I collaborated with the Technology and Science teachers, and the students built their own robot figure out of “spare parts” and then made it talk (with Makey-Makey and Scratch), just like Charlotte did in DOLL-E 1.0. (Here’s the lesson guide if you want to do this project with your own students!)

Welcome to the World, Little Red!

Filed under: Uncategorized | September 7, 2022

Today is the book birthday (release day) of LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR, and I can’t wait for you to see it! In fact, I’d like to see it myself- I haven’t received my illustrator copy yet. So, let me know what you think when you get yours on InstagramFacebookTwitter, or by leaving a review on Amazon.

Spread Thanks by Writing a Letter (and actually delivering it)!

LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR is a wonderful model about how to write a thank you letter (and edit it). Below is a printable page to make this activity easy-peasy!

Write a Thank You letter (and actually deliver it)!

Filed under: Uncategorized | August 2, 2022

The fine art of letter writing is in danger of becoming a lost art!

True story: In the middle of making the illustrations for this book, I asked my 11-year-old to write a letter (an apology for being rude to a friend of mine … ah preteens), but I was taken back when she handed me a printout of a note typed and printed from her phone. All the text was squished to the top of the paper and the words strung in long horizontal lines. No breaks, no paragraphs, no formatting, not even a signature or name. My daughter saw nothing wrong with her letter.

It dawned on me that my girl hadn’t really been taught proper paper formatting. I guess it’s similar to the now rare skill of writing/reading cursive. Regardless, my middle school daughter certainly didn’t know how to format a letter, story, report, or a printed paper of any kind. LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR is aimed at early elementary students, but I think older kids would enjoy/benefit as well. Big kid story time for the win! Letter formatting aside, anyone is sure to get a kick out of Little Red’s street smarts as she dodges the Big Bad Wolf and takes advantage of his editorial side!

One way to teach your students how to properly write a letter is to read them LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR and then let them practice writing a thank you letter of their own with the printable below (and actually deliver it)!

Shanda’s Books + Toys Holiday Gift Guide

Filed under: Uncategorized | October 21, 2021

Click here for the PDF with links to buy!

Thank you to everyone who has ever read/purchased one of my books, left a review, or invited me for an author visit!

Happy shopping!

Storytelling in a box … or rather… in a blog post!

Filed under: Uncategorized | March 6, 2021

I’m still beating out the story of the young graphic novel chapter book that I’m working on. I’m pretty sure I told you guys about it before… the one about the rock who is constantly trampled and turns into a mean tough guy but finally figures out how to be tough and friendly when he joins a floral punk bandPunk Rock? Well, I got as far as sketching out the first chapter (50 pages!) and sharing it with my online comics critique group. They loved the character, the art, and the premise of this odd little punk story, BUUUUUT the story and the way I begin the story still need work.

So… I have committed to going back to the basics of good storytelling to relearn how to make it sing! And I’ve put together this email full of what I’m reading and what I’m watching so that it might help others. Enjoy!

What I’m Reading:

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a CLASSIC storytelling book for grownups. I’m reading it for the first time and although there are some chapters that only apply to writing movies, this book has been eye opening!

What I’m Watching:

THIS video series is truly awesome! It’s called “PIXAR in a Box” and it’s on the Khan Academy website. There are 6 lessons, but you only need the first 3 (unless you are an animator). I got so much out of this as an adult, but I can see it being phenomenally useful in the classroom too! (Probably best for ages 3rd grade and up.)

Storytelling Kit For Students:

I made these graphic organizers with teachers and students in mind! Feel free to download them here and have fun writing your own stories.

Happy writing!


How-to-draw A Rose (step by step)

Filed under: Uncategorized | January 20, 2021

It’s the second day since BEDTIME BALLET has been out in the world! Will you celebrate by drawing a rose with me? And PLEASE share YOUR rose drawing by tagging me on Instagram.

Click the image below for the printable page.

Bring Ballet Into Your Classroom!

Filed under: Uncategorized | January 18, 2021

Tomorrow is the official birthday (release day) of my new book, BEDTIME BALLET, written by Kallie George and illustrated by me! To celebrate, Im sharing lots of ways for educators and homeschool families to bring the art and practice of ballet straight into their classrooms…

In this post, you’ll find:

  • Kid-friendly, ballet exercise videos to get you and your students moving while learning basic ballet moves and terms.
  • A video to inspire boys
  • Video replay (available until Feb 1, 2021) of mine and Kallie’s book launch which includes an inspiration conversation, read aloud, and a drawing tutorial!
  • A collection of my favorite picture books, chapter books, and non-fiction books that twirl around ballet
  • Printable student activities

Videos to move and inspire:

Replay of book launch, read aloud, and drawing lesson (Available until Feb 1, 2021): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hmXNheDUPI&t=74s

More great ballet books for kids:

Welcome To Ballet School, a kid-friendly, technical picture book written by Ashley Bouder, illustrated by Julia Bereciartu

Brave Ballerina, a picture book biography written by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Dear Ballerina, a picture book by Monica Wellington

Pippa By Design, an educational fiction chapter book written by Claudia Logan, illustrated by Chesley McLaren

Vampirina Ballerina, a picture book written by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Bunheads, an autobiography picture book written by by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey

Here’s an affiliate link to all the ballet books recommended in this email: https://bookshop.org/lists/my-favorite-ballet-books-for-kids

Printable activities to celebrate BEDTIME BALLET:

Thanks for reading this post and welcoming my new book into the world with me! I’d love to know if any of these activities or videos were useful and all the ways YOU brought ballet or dance into your classroom.



My illustration process for “Little Red Writing Hood and the Big Bad Editor”

Filed under: Uncategorized | December 1, 2020

Happy December! My family just got back from visiting family in Franklin, TN, but before we traveled we got our Christmas tree put up! It was so nice to come home to it :) But now I’ve got to get to serious illustrating business, because my February 1st deadline will be here so fast!

For this post, I wanted to share a little of my process (which changes with every book)… Enjoy!

SKETCH: I started sketching out the characters and thumbnails back in February for this book – pre-covid. When I had the whole book roughly sketched out with pencil, I scanned each spread and assembled the drawings into a multi-page PDF, which I sent to the editor and art director at Aladdin/Simon&Shuster. Then, the pandemic hit and I didn’t hear back about the sketches until August! Good thing they liked the direction I was headed in and didn’t have too many notes/changes. Here’s one example of a spread that DID require changes…

FINAL DRAWING (just the lines): According to the notes the editor and art director gave me, they felt that we needed to compress several panels into one full spread. So I came up with this new composition…

They loved it! So I pulled the sketch into Procreate on my iPad and traced over it- “inking” it so to speak into crisper line work…

COLOR STUDY: After the drawing is finalized, I print it out small (4 times) on one sheet of 300lb Arches hotpress watercolor paper so I can experiment with colors. This step is SO IMPORTANT to my work not looking “clowny” using all the colors. A color study really is a game changer – believe me I’ve done both (with and without)!

None of the color studies (above) are perfect, but it gets me far enough to be able to confidently paint the real thing larger. I think the top left sample comes closest to what I’m aiming for.

I was inspired by the colors in these books. Do you recognize them?

FINAL PAINTING: Now, I paint bigger, life-sized, about 90%. I work at this size so it comfortable fits back onto the scanner when the painting is complete.

PHOTOSHOP TOUCHES: You lose a lot of umph and color in the scanning process, so I use Photoshop to pump up the color saturation and I can also add in little details that I may not have thought of beforehand. Can you see the little fish I added nibbling on the upside-down muffin?

Ta-da! Here’s where I ended up (after a little back and forth with the art director first). This could go through a few more changes depending on feedback from my art director, but I think it’s pretty close. To know for sure, you’ll have to compare this email/post to the final book when it comes out in Spring of 2022!

I hope you enjoyed this look into how I work! And keep an eye out for Little Red Writing Hood and the Big Bad Editor (written by Rebecca Kraft Rector) in Spring 2022!

All my very best!


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Shanda McCloskey, Children's Illustrator & Author