Thursday, May 4, 2017

Spotlight on Melissa Manlove + DMC Challenge


Melissa Manlove is a Senior Editor at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She has been with Chronicle for 13 years and has 17 years of children’s bookselling experience. Her acquisitions tend to be for all ages in nonfiction; ages 0-8 for fiction.

Here is a small sampling of books she has edited in recent years:

Browse the entire Chronicle Books catalog HERE.

When acquiring, Melissa looks for fresh takes on familiar topics as well as the new and unusual. An effective approach and strong, graceful writing are important to her, and her attraction to the music of language means that she doesn't shy away from poetry. She has worked with J. Patrick Lewis, Kenn Nesbitt, Marilyn Singer, Patricia Hruby Powell, and Elaine Magliaro, among others. Although Chronicle Books is currently open to unsolicited submissions, Melissa points out that poetry is a tough sell these days and Chronicle's list is not a large one.

I first became aware of Melissa Manlove in 2012, with the release of Kate Coomb's Water Sings Blue and this wonderful interview by Steven Withrow. I used that interview as a jumping off point for a few of my own questions today. Another worthwhile place to visit is the Chronicle Books blog, where Melissa posts occasionally about the craft of writing. This article about Kate Messner's Over and Under the Snow describes how using poetic devices is one of a few essential components for any successful picture book manuscript.

Melissa also has a couple posts at Chronicle's blog that give you a feel for her fun-loving personality, but I think you'll get a sense of that right here. That, and how smart and passionate she is about publishing books for children.

So shall we get started? Bring on the five favorites!

Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
Favorite childhood memory:
I remember, in preschool, being asked what I was going to be when I grew up, and answering in perfect confidence, “Wonder Woman.” That’s sounded like the right answer to me ever since.

Favorite children's author:
This is an impossible question, but Russell Hoban, Maurice Sendak, and Astrid Lindgren were among my favorites growing up.

Favorite subject in school: English

Favorite food: tea and chocolate

Favorite smell: freesia

What is it about children’s books that drives you to do what you do?

Books made my own childhood vastly richer.
There is nothing like finding yourself in a book to convince you that you are—and should be—a hero.
"Superhero" by Marionberries
And there’s lots of evidence that books make a tremendous difference to children—the more they read the better they do in school, the longer they stay in school, the more compassionate they’ll be, the more money they’ll make in their lives, the better their children will do in school, the longer they will live. 

Reading makes us better citizens, in the marketplace, the jury box, the voting booth. Reading changes the world.

You came to children’s publishing after years as a bookseller. Even when you started at Chronicle, you continued to have an active presence at a children's bookstore doing puppet shows with your mother on weekends. What qualities do you possess as an editor that you can attribute to your bookselling experience?

Bookselling gives me a wide knowledge of the books in the marketplace now, an understanding of what books appeal to which shoppers, and a very useful sense of consumer behavior.

You’ve said that you “grew up on poetry.” Would you share a poem that’s meaningful to you, either from your childhood or as an adult?

I’m fond of Child Development by Billy Collins.

It’s a fine reminder that there’s little to truly grow out of, and what we should grow into is not dignity but humor.

Five years ago, you said it was a tragedy of our educational system that most students, once they reach junior high, are shoved from the playful poetry of childhood straight into more formal poetic forms:
It’s like taking a kindergartner’s Legos away and giving him an encyclopedia to play with. Who wouldn’t resent that? There’s no question there’s plenty of fun to be had with an encyclopedia or a sonnet, but there are a lot of other toys in the spectrum of English poetry. 
With the increasing popularity of novels in verse, I’m wondering if you still feel that way? From your perspective as a publisher, are you seeing any other signs of change?

I do still feel that way. And I think that common core, which I am a fan of in many ways, did a terrible disservice to poetry in the way it expects poetry to almost always be featured with stories and drama (and often offers the teacher the option of choosing stories instead of poetry) rather than insisting that poetry be an essential part of the English curriculum in all grades. Thank goodness for novels in verse! That is a bright spot. But my sense is that books of poetry (that aren’t novels) have gotten harder to publish.

Melissa Manlove at Chronicle Books, doing what she loves best.
What is one of your biggest job challenges? What about your job gives you the most satisfaction?

I suppose the biggest challenge is just the endless tide of email. Editing—thinking about text or art or the way a book will come together—is tremendously satisfying and constantly new.

Your books reflect eclectic interests, though I imagine there are common characteristics that you look for no matter the style or subject matter. Using your Spring 2017 titles as examples, can you give us an idea what some of these characteristics are? What specifically excites you about these books?

My spring list includes Balderdash!; Charlie & Mouse; Curious Constructions; Love Is; Mighty, Mighty Construction Site; Over and Under the Pond; and technically on our Fall 16 list but releasing this past February were Things to Do and Loving vs Virginia.

This list of books does represent a wide range of ages and topics, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry. But each has a voice that is unusually well-suited to its topic, and an approach that I’m confident will invite its readers in. Of these, Things to Do, Loving vs Virginia, Love Is, and Mighty, Mighty Construction Site are in verse.

Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via
Things to Do by Elaine Magliaro and illustrated by Catia Chen is a jewelbox of little poems describing a child’s day. Each is so evocative of point of view and the intense present-ness of childhood.

Read Jama Rattigan's extensive interview with Elaine Magliaro at Alphabet Soup.

Watch this feature on Catia Chen at the PBS NewsHour. 

Download the teacher guide HERE.

From THINGS TO DO by Elaine Magliaro, illustrated by Catia Chen (Chronicle Books, 2017) – click to enlarge.

Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via
Loving vs Virginia is a documentary novel in verse by Patricia Hruby Powell, with artwork by Shadra Strickland. It's about the historic civil rights case, and yet its voice is so humble and so human that it lets Richard and Mildred become real people, and their story become a love story—as it should be.

Read an interview with Patricia Hruby Powell at The Children's Book Review, and this review of Loving vs. Virginia by the Historical Novel Society.

Download the teacher guide HERE.

From LOVE VS. VIRGINIA by Patricia Hruby Powell, with artwork by Shadra Strickland (Chronicle Books, 2017) – click to enlarge.

Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via
Love Is by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane, is a simple and lovely tale of a girl who adopts a lost duckling. Many parents will see themselves in it, but it remains a story of growth and generosity that’s very true to children.

You'll find a lovely review of Love Is HERE.

From LOVE IS by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane (Chronicle Books, 2017) – click to enlarge.

Find at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
or via
Mighty Mighty Construction Site is the sequel to Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Dusky Rinker and Tom Lechtenheld. It's as full as the first one of the tremendous satisfaction of dirt, rhyme, big machines, and teamwork.

Read Publishers Weekly's starred review, and another glowing write-up from The Children's Book Review.

Download a teacher guide & activity kit HERE.
From MIGHTY, MIGHTY CONSTRUCTION SITE by Sherri Duskey Rinker & Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle Books, 2017)


Whet our appetites. What are some books we can look forward to in the coming months from Chronicle?

This fall there will be the sequel to Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes—Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy.

Coming October 3, 2017, available for pre-order.

There will also be the madcap 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Jake Parker, in which Santa’s elves build a lot of hybrid sleighs (motorcycle sleighs, big rig sleighs, submarine sleighs) in an effort to improve on the classic.

Coming October 24, 2017, available for pre-order.

Give Me Back My Book! is an irrepressibly comic exploration of the parts of a book and the negotiations of friendship, by Travis Foster and Ethan Long.
Coming September 5, 2017, available for pre-order.

Herbert's First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Steven Henry, is an endearing and empowering primer on Halloween (which is a fairly strange and unnerving holiday for the youngest children).

Coming August 1, 2017, available for pre-order.

Hidden Dangers is a nonfiction book by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Tymn Armstrong. It's about some of the world’s most dangerous animals—and is also a seek-and-find challenge.

Coming August 1, 2017, available for pre-order.

Melissa Manlove, appreciating a good laugh since age 5.
If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?

Oh gosh I don’t know. I would probably do something to make them laugh.

She might even read them a story!

Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month’s ditty challenge.

Write me a poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else. Convince me!

Oooh, I LOVE it!  

Please join me in thanking wonder-full Melissa for deflecting  
an onslaught of email bullets to be with us today!

Mattel's Wonder Woman Doll, by earldan

Not only that, she has generously donated not one, but two books for lucky DMC participants!

(Winners will be selected randomly at the end of the month.)

It's time, poets. 
Now go do what you do best . . .

A new journey to be started.

A new promise to be fulfilled.

A new page to be written.

Go forth unto this waiting world with pen in hand, 
all you young scribes,

the open book awaits.

Be creative.

Be adventurous.

Be original.

And above all else, be young.

For youth is your greatest weapon, your greatest tool.

Use it wisely.
                   —Wonder Woman, issue #62, Wonder Woman: War of the Gods, by George Pérez


Post your poem that explores how writing (or a book) is like something else on our May 2017 padlet. Stop by any time during the month to add your work or to check out what others are contributing.

By posting on the padlet, you are granting me permission to share your poem on Today's Little Ditty.  Some poems will be featured as daily ditties, though authors may not be given advanced notice. Subscribe to the blog if you'd like to keep tabs. You can do that in the sidebar to the right where it says "Follow TLD by Email." As always, all of the poems will be included in a wrap-up celebration on the last Friday of the month—May 26 for our current challenge.

TEACHERS, it's great when students get involved! Ditty of the Month Club challenges are wonderful opportunities to learn about working poets and authors while having fun with poetry prompts. Thank you for spreading the word! For children under 13, please read my COPPA compliance statement in the sidebar to the right.

FIRST-TIMERS (those who have never contributed to a ditty challenge before), in addition to posting your work on the padlet, please send your name and email address to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com. That way I'll be able to contact you for possible inclusion in future Best of Today's Little Ditty anthologies.

BLOGGERS, thank you for publishing your poems on your own blogs– I love that!  Please let me know about it, so I can share your post! Also remember to include your poem (or a direct link to your post) on the padlet in order to be included in the wrap-up celebration and end-of-month giveaway.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thank you to everyone who contributed poems to last month's Ditty Potluck! I was delighted and humbled that so many of you came to my party. In fact, you might want to take another look at the poetry smorgasbord—we had about a half dozen late arrivals. Thank you to readers and writers alike for making TLD's birthday month so special! has determined that a Best of Today's Little Ditty prize package goes to . . .

Congratulations, Teresa!

Jama Rattigan has a smile waiting for you at Alphabet Soup. Join her for a refreshing bite of gratitude and the Poetry Friday roundup.


  1. Melissa, thank you so much for stopping by at TLD for a chat. I really enjoyed seeing your thoughts on poetry and literature for young people. Wonder Woman!Many of the books shown/mentioned are on my middle school library shelf.
    Michelle, as always, a delight. I love the challenge and my wheels are already turning.

  2. I wanted to be Wonder Woman, too, or the goddess Isis. (I had the accessories!)
    Mixing humor, a devotion to true voices, and a love for readers themselves is a delightful combination.
    That's a prompt with appeal! Can't wait to see what it sparks.

  3. What an inspiring (and terrifying) post! We deflect bullets of limited audience and a backlist of amazing works! We emerge with our self-confidence intact and willing to write another day!

    You've made a beautiful post together, Michelle and Melissa. I love the Wonder Woman memories. I imagined being her as well. And the Bionic Woman. A person of power, with a voice and defenses, who stands her own. Preferably in yoga pants rather than undies, though, these days.

  4. Thoroughly enjoyed learning more about Melissa and her books -- I read so few editor interviews that it's especially gratifying to discover who worked on some of the books I especially love (Water Sings Blue, Things to Do, Josephine, When Thunder Comes, Little Red Writing, A Strange Place to Call Home). I've always wished that it was standard practice for an editor's name to appear on the copyright page. :) Hooray for all the Wonder Women in this industry. Looking forward to all the Fall books and I love Melissa's balloon pic! Great post, you two!

    1. I totally agree that the editor's name deserves a place on the copyright page, Jama! Hooray for the wonder women of blogging too... like you. :)

  5. The challenge sounds interesting to try, and love seeing all the books Melissa is connected to. I just read Balderdash, and enjoyed learning about Newborn's beginnings a lot. Thanks, Michelle!

  6. Thank you for sharing the interview with Melissa. I can't wait to check out some of the upcoming books. The challenge sounds like fun. I can't wait to try it out.

  7. A very interesting interview, thank you! Did she say, Michelle, why she thought poetry is such a hard sell to publishers?

    1. She addresses it some in her answer to my question that begins "Five years ago..." (about the educational system). My take is that there's simply not a lot of demand for it in the schools, so as much as publishers might like or appreciate poetry, it's not a great money-maker for them. My words now, not Melissa's, but I think that's also the reason why poetry collections that have some sort of educational hook, ones that find a way to fit in with the classroom curriculum, tend to be more prevalent these days. Thanks for stopping by, David!

    2. I enjoyed this interview (for the realist words for an editor who loves poetry) and your take on what kinds of collections are marketable.

  8. All is wonderful here, but what takes the cake is this timeless line by Billy Collins, "Mr. Silly Pants." Thanks for another chock-full in-depth interview Michelle, and thanks Melissa for sharing with us many of your books from Chronicle. BTW I was just at the SCBWI-IL Spring Thaw Conference which included a session by Tom Lichtenfeld ("Mighty, Mighty Construction Site")-where he gave a Fantastic Illustrator Intensive!

  9. So interesting to hear the backstory from the editor's side of things. Thanks for such an informative post! Christie @

  10. Oh, wow, she has worked on some of my favourite recent picture books!! I love getting these behind-the-scenes glimpses into what it takes to turn great stories into amazing books.

  11. This is such an interesting turn toward editor from writer. The editor is seldom celebrated, but isn't she an important link between the words and the page? Thanks for this challenge! I opened a Google doc and already have three lines. Sometimes the muse shows up. You have to catch her when you can.

  12. Well, this was fun! I enjoyed meeting Melissa Manlove, and hearing an editor's thoughts. Learning that Elaine Magliaro has a book out this spring was an added plus. I love her poems.

  13. What a terrific interview! I enjoyed meeting the editor behind so many books that I've loved. Melissa's challenge is going to be fun, too. The ideas area already whirring around in my brain. Thanks so much, Michelle and Melissa!

  14. Because I, too, aspire to be Wonder Woman, and because I love all the books on her list, by default, I *heart* Melissa! Thank you for giving us this glimpse of the creative spirit behind all these creative spirits! Can't wait to take up the challenge.

  15. I so enjoyed reading this interview and learning about the editor's perspective and all these wonderful books! Such a rich post, full of many things to explore and topped off with an exciting challenge. Thanks to both of you!

  16. As always, a terrific interview, but a little special to hear from an editor--like the difference between talking to the mother and the midwife. Nice to meet you, Melissa, and I think I see my poem on the horizon...

    Thanks, Michelle! So sorry I was otherwise engaged during your poetry birthday party. I'll try to get back during this month of catchup/lookforward.

  17. If Wonder Woman had had more of a presence when I was a kid, I would have aspired to be her...There were few women doing great things, so I wanted to be anyone who had a horse! Thanks, Michelle and Melissa! Fantastic interview!

  18. Fabulous interview! So nice to hear from an editor and a very special editor, at that. Melissa has been in my sites after I discovered Water Sings Blue. I also loved A Strange Place to Call Home! Thank you for your insights!