Thursday, November 2, 2017

Spotlight on Carol Hinz + DMC Challenge


Carol Hinz is Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, divisions of Lerner Publishing Group. She began her publishing career in New York City and has been an editor at Lerner for nearly fifteen years. When she’s not obsessing over books, Carol enjoys playing with her sons (ages 7 and 4), baking, knitting, and taking ballet classes. Find her on Twitter: @CarolCHinz.

Based on our email exchanges, I've come to discover that Carol is as warm and friendly as the smile in her photograph suggests. Not only that, she's curious, she's a deep thinker, she loves a creative challenge, she cares about the state of our world, she celebrates what makes life beautiful, and she's always on the lookout for "aha" moments. Best of all, these same qualities shine through her work as a children's book editor!

You can find several books that Carol has edited right here on Today's Little Ditty

From Millbrook Press:

Laura Purdie Salas was our debut spotlight author in May 2014. At the time, she introduced us to Water Can Be.... I reviewed A Rock Can Be... in March 2015.  

Irene Latham was featured with Dear Wandering Wildebeest in September 2014. Following that book's success, we were introduced to When the Sun Shines on Antarctica in 2016.

And who can forget Jane Yolen and The Alligator's Smile, featured in September 2016?

Other recent poetry books from Millbrook Press include Brian P. Cleary's Poetry Adventures series and Betsy Franco's A Spectacular Selection of Sea Critters. Find more books Carol has edited on Pinterest.

From Carolrhoda Books: 

Some of you might remember Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole by Bob Raczka, featured in November 2014. It's one of my favorite holiday books (even if it wasn't edited by Carol) because it's so perfect for family sharing. You can read a poem each day in December, counting down to Christmas like an Advent calendar.

Feeding the Flying Fanellis by Kate Hosford is another fun poetry collection from Carolrhoda Books that came out in 2015. It wasn't featured on Today's Little Ditty, but you can find a terrific review on Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Typically when I feature an editor in November, I like to look back on what they have published during the year. But Carol has a special treat for us today. Not only will we be highlighting two books from 2017, but we'll also get an advance look at three books coming out in 2018!  Here they are, in the order they were or will be released:

If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Jaime Kim (Millbrook Press, March 1, 2017)

What would you do if you were the moon? Do you think you would rest quietly in the night sky? Oh, no. The moon does so much more than you might imagine! It spins like a twilight ballerina, plays tug-of-war with the ocean, and lights a pathway for baby sea turtles. Discover the many other roles the moon plays in this whimsical and lyrical picture book.

Recently placed on the longlist for the 2017 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Children’s Science Picture Book category.

Purchase at, Barnes & Noble, or from your local independent bookstore.

The Sun Played Hide-and-Seek by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Carol Crimmins (Millbrook Press, August 1, 2017)

A young student has to give a presentation about personification— and she's petrified! How can she explain something that gives human traits to things that aren't human? If only she could take a trip to the park and show everyone the way the fountain hiccups, the daffodils dance, and the wind whispers a tune . . . or maybe that's just what she'll have to do!

From School Library Journal:  
"This work is sure to engage primary-grade students with its simple yet instructive story line and delightful illustrations. A good choice for classroom use as well as pleasure reading."

Purchase at, Barnes & Noble, or from your local independent bookstore.

Can I Touch Your Hair: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (Carolrhoda Books, January 1, 2018)

How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don't know each other . . . and they're not sure they want to.

Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. Accompanied by artwork from acclaimed illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage), this remarkable collaboration invites readers of all ages to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.

Many of us have been eagerly anticipating this book's release! In a starred review, Kirkus calls it "a brave and touching portrayal worthy of sharing in classrooms across America."

Pre-order at, Barnes & Noble, or from your local independent bookstore.

Seeing Into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright, biography and illustrations by Nina Crews (Millbrook Press, February 1, 2018)

From walking a dog to watching a sunset to finding a beetle, Richard Wright's haiku puts everyday moments into focus. Now, more than fifty years after they were written, these poems continue to reflect our everyday experiences. Paired with the photo-collage artwork of Nina Crews, Seeing into Tomorrow celebrates the lives of contemporary African American boys and offers an accessible introduction to one of the most important African American writers of the twentieth century.

Seeing Into Tomorrow has been named a Junior Library Guild selection. Visit Nina Crews's website for another peek at this gorgeous book.

Pre-order at, Barnes & Noble, or from your local independent bookstore.

Meet My Family! Animal Babies and Their Families by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman (Millbrook Press, March 1, 2018)

What kind of families do animal babies have? All different kinds! Charming text and sweet illustrations introduce a wolf pup cared for by the pack, a young orangutan snuggling with its mother high in a tree, a poison dart frog tadpole riding piggyback on its dad, and more. Featuring rhyming verse and informational text, this book lets you discover just how diverse the animal kingdom really is!

Pre-order at, Barnes & Noble, or from your local independent bookstore.

And now that you've met the books, it's time to meet their editor—Carol Hinz!  We'll start with five of her favorite things:

Favorite Color: blue (all shades)

Favorite Childhood Memory:
I climbed a tree in my neighbor’s backyard so I could sit up high on a branch and read. It wasn’t nearly as comfortable as I’d imagined it would be!

Favorite Subject in School:
I had trouble picking a single favorite subject; I remember being a senior in high school and feeling torn between pursuing English and pursuing science. And that’s one reason I enjoy editing nonfiction so much—I’m still learning about so many different things!

Favorite Quote: 
"It’s startling how I start to see the beauty in things that I was taught not to see beauty in."

I came across this quote as part of the Weather Diaries exhibit at the American Swedish Institute earlier in 2017.

Favorite Pastime:
I’ve been taking ballet for many years—I have a wonderful teacher and our classes have live piano accompaniment, which is fantastic.

Read "A Ballet Teacher's Advice for Authors and Illustrators" at The Lerner Blog.
And while you're there, check out some of Carol Hinz's other interesting blog posts.

As one of the largest independently owned children’s book publishers in the United States, Lerner Publishing Group includes more than twenty imprints and partners. What makes Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books unique?

Ooooh, good question! Let me take the two imprints separately. To me, Millbrook is unique because of its singular focus on curricular topics presented in a fun or unusual way for readers in grades k-5. In addition, I’d say that we have a real commitment to maximizing the visual appeal of all of our nonfiction to create an enticing and cohesive whole.

With Carolrhoda Books, I focus on the picture books—several of my very talented colleagues oversee the novels. We publish a carefully curated picture book list that sparks readers’ imaginations and offers new ways of looking at the world.

Have you always envisioned yourself with a career in children’s publishing? What is it about editing books for children that keeps you captivated?

Carol Hinz, age 13, curled up with a good book.
Not exactly. I’ve loved books since I was a child, but for a long time I thought I would be a teacher. In college I became curious about book publishing, and after graduation I completed the Radcliffe Publishing Course and moved to New York City. I was fortunate that my first job gave me the chance to work on both adult and children’s books, and I began to develop a new appreciation for children’s books. When I decided I wanted to move to Minneapolis, Lerner Publishing Group just happened to have an opening in the editorial department!

What keeps me captivated? So many things! I love that in making books, there are constant creative challenges—both with the text and the art. And as I deepen my relationships with authors over the course of several books, we’re able to get into topics and themes that we might not have tackled in our first book together. There’s so much to explore within the realm of “children’s books,” and I love the chance to take risks and take on topics that haven’t previously been covered for children.

Carol Hinz at NCTE with authors Laura Purdie Salas (L) and Irene Latham (R)

Carol Hinz with author Charles Waters

Judging by the books you’ve worked on, you seem at home with poetry, rhyme, and lyrical language. Is poetry something you were introduced to as a child?

My mother read to me from the time I was young, including nursery rhymes. My first real exposure to contemporary poetry came during my internship at Graywolf Press one summer during college. I have to say, I’m not always sure I’m entirely comfortable with poetry, but perhaps that’s why I’m so interested in it. I am always trying to figure it out, to understand what poetry can do that other forms of writing can’t do (or can’t do in the same way), and to see what’s possible within the constraints of a given format.

Would you share a poem that’s meaningful to you, either from your childhood or as an adult?

One of the most powerful poems I encountered in recent years is this haiku from Claudia Rankine’s book Citizen:
because white men can’t
police their imaginations
black men are dying
In just 11 words, Rankine made an incredibly powerful statement about what’s been happening in our country. Her whole book got me thinking about the ways in which poetry can cut to the heart of a topic and the ways in which poets offer essential insights into the past, present, and future.

Nonfiction is the bread and butter of Millbrook Press. How would you characterize the relationship between poetic language and informational subject matter?

It’s interesting because on the face of it, most people might think nonfiction wouldn’t be good fit with lyrical language. But I think poetry and lyrical language can help to take a nonfiction topic that might not be inherently interesting to certain kids (or adults) and offer them new ways to understand and appreciate it. Poetic language, particularly rhyme, can also help bring a sense of playfulness to a topic. And an author can use the structure of a poem to bring together images and ideas that might not appear together in a more straightforward prose piece on the topic.

You go to great lengths to make nonfiction approachable and engaging for children in other ways, as well. Using your 2017 and 2018 books as examples, please describe what excites you about each of them.

Thank you so much! With each of these books, I found something fresh in either the topic being explored or the presentation of information about that topic.

If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas, illus. by Jaime Kim.

This book begins with a child speaking to the moon, and the moon replies . . .

From If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and Jaime Kim (Millbrook Press, 2017) – click to enlarge

in the form of a list poem! I love the choice to have the moon narrate most of the book as well as the fascinating facts Laura brought into the brief sidebars on each spread. And Jaime Kim’s illustrations are gorgeous to boot.

From If You Were the Moon by Laura Purdie Salas and Jaime Kim (Millbrook Press, 2017) – click to enlarge

The Sun Played Hide-and-Seek: A Personification Story by Brian P. Cleary, illus. by Carol Crimmins.

I am always impressed at the way Brian Cleary can present information using rhyming verse.

From The Sun Played Hide-and-Seek by Brian P. Cleary and Carol Crimmins (Millbrook Press, 2017) – click to enlarge

He doesn’t let the structure of the verse limit what he can do—instead he makes the structure work for him. This particular book makes personification extremely accessible to both teachers and students.

From The Sun Played Hide-and-Seek by Brian P. Cleary and Carol Crimmins (Millbrook Press, 2017) – click to enlarge

Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illus. by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko.

How do we talk about race in America with our children? This book offers a way to begin a conversation with middle-grade kids.

From Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
(Carolrhoda Books, 2018) – click to enlarge

I am so grateful to Irene and Charles for putting so much of themselves and their own childhood experiences into this book, and to Sean and Selina for creating art that shows two people who begin the book as strangers and end it as friends.

From Can I Touch Your Hair by Irene Latham, Charles Waters, Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
(Carolrhoda Books, 2018) – click to enlarge

This book really shines when it's read aloud, and I could easily envision having pairs of students recite different pairs of poems and then write their own poems in response.

Meet My Family! Animal Babies and Their Families by Laura Purdie Salas, illus. by Stephanie Fizer Coleman.

Baby animals are incredibly appealing,

From Meet My Family! by Laura Purdie Salas and Stephanie Fizer Coleman (Millbrook Press, 2018) – click to enlarge

but Laura didn’t simply put together a list of cute baby animals. Instead she found a way to explore the diversity of animal families around the globe while giving readers the chance to “meet” the sweet babies. 

From Meet My Family! by Laura Purdie Salas and Stephanie Fizer Coleman (Millbrook Press, 2018) – click to enlarge

Seeing into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright, biography and illustrations by Nina Crews.

Although I’d read two novels by Richard Wright, I wasn’t aware that he’d turned to writing haiku at the end of his life. Nina Crews has gathered together twelve very accessible haiku and paired them with photo collage pieces that feature contemporary black boys doing ordinary things—from riding a bike to going fishing to flying a kite.

From Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright and Nina Crews (Millbrook Press, 2018) – click to enlarge

From Seeing into Tomorrow by Richard Wright and Nina Crews (Millbrook Press, 2018) – click to enlarge

It’s a beautiful celebration of black boyhood that readers of all backgrounds can appreciate.

If you had all the world’s children in one room, what would you tell them?

Oh, goodness! I think I’m going to have to borrow from some very wise words that Sachiko Yasui told Caren Stelson in response to a similar question. This response comes near the end of Caren’s book Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story. Sachiko offers this advice to the world’s young people:

What is peace? What kind of person should I be? Keep pursuing the answers to these questions.

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

Returning to my favorite quote from earlier, I would like your readers to write a poem that finds beauty in something that is not usually considered beautiful.

It's a beauty of a challenge, I can tell you that!

I look forward to a month filled with fresh perspective and eye-opening words. What a wonderful gift at a time when we need it most.

Before you dive in, though, please help me thank Carol Hinz for letting us get to know her better, sharing her editorial insights, and giving us a peek at these wonderful treasures from Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books!

Oh, and one more thing—

Carol has sent me a copy of The Sun Played Hide-and-Seek: A Personification Story to pass on to one lucky DMC participant, selected randomly at the end of the month.  Beauty!


Post your poem that finds beauty in something not usually considered beautiful on our November 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—November 24th 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.

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

Thanks once again to everyone who participated in last month's challenge to write a poem about a person, place, or thing that spooked you as a child. After last Friday's post, I added three more—from Kay Jernigan McGriff, Diane Mayr, and Carol Varsalona—to the final presentation. I encourage you to have another look at this diverse collection of poems. has determined that a personalized copy of Magic for Sale by Carrie Clickard and illustrated by John Shelley will go to. . .

Congratulations, Linda!

Lucky Linda also happens to be this week's Poetry Friday roundup host. Join her at TeacherDance where she's celebrating November's arrival with two seasonal cinquains.


  1. What a great interview and roundup of books! Carol is so thoughtful about books and editing and about what books mean to kids. I feel incredibly lucky to have an ongoing relationship with her and with Millbrook/Lerner. Not only because I love to write the books I write, but look at all these other amazing books buy wonderful authors like Irene Latham and Charles Waters and Nina Crews and everyone. I have co-written a picture book making the rounds right now about finding beauty where it's not obvious. I'm going to figure out how to draw a poem I can share out of an element of that manuscript. Thanks, Michelle and Carol!

    1. That sounds like a wonderful PB, Laura. I hope it gets snapped up!

  2. I dictated my comment above, and it's driving me crazy that it says buy instead of by. Sigh. I can't edit it on my phone.

  3. Like Laura, I am a huge fan of Carol's and am so glad to create books with her. CITIZEN by Claudia Rankine is really what started our CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? project. Powerful book. And I am loving the challenge... there is always beauty. Thank you, Michelle and Carol! I can't wait to read these new titles. xo

  4. Wow. Great interview and challenge. Marvellous books that make my heart beat happy and my eyes glisten with joy.

  5. Wow. Carol has edited so many wonderful books. Thank you, Carol, and thank you Michelle. I love this challenge. I think about this all the time in the garden--there is so much beauty beyond the flower in its prime.

  6. I am "lucky" for sure, to win Carrie's magical book and to read this marvelous post, Michelle. Wow! It took me a long, long time because I was savoring pages from "new" books coming, bookmarking them and enjoying learning about Carol's journey as an editor. I know about some of these, own and love others. We are all "lucky" to have someone who supports these wonderful poets to write again, and then again for children and for all of us. Thanks, beautiful post!

  7. So nice to meet Carol through your post & interview, Michelle! I got to know Charles Waters a little during a Highlights Foundation workshop last year. He must be so excited about the publication of CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Well-deserved success! I'm looking forward to brainstorming about this month's challenge.

  8. Thank you so much, Michelle, for spotlighting on one of the kindest most supportive editors an author could ever have. I'm SO looking forward to reading what Carol is serving up for readers, especially the Wright/Crews collaboration.

    #carolhinzrules #hinzpower #lernerpower

    1. I was lucky enough to see a copy of the Wright/Crews book, Charles. It's positively gorgeous!

  9. So much richness and inspiration here. Thank you, Carol and Michelle!

  10. Thank you for this wonderful interview, Michelle. I am looking forward to these forthcoming books. I'll give it a little thought and see what I can come up with something for this month's challenge.

  11. I love this interview. So many great books were featured. I can't wait to dig into the challenge this month. It's a great one.

  12. This is a great interview and a nice look at the wonderful books that Carol edits. I've read several of these and love them! Thanks, Michelle and Carol.

  13. So much goodness in this post. Thank-you Michelle, for spotlighting Carol - and Carol, for sharing your riches. I have to say (wee-bit delighted) that all the way over here in Australia, I have seen 'A Rock Can Be', AND - just today! - 'If You Were The Moon', in my favourite libraries. Such a thrill! And I have the beautiful 'When the Sun Shines on Antarctica' (as it did every day when we were there) in my hot little hands, thanks to the lovely Irene. They are each a delightful blend of poetry, creativity, facts - and gorgeous artwork.

  14. It's so nice to learn more about the editor who worked on so many of the books I've enjoyed recently! Especially fun seeing PF friends' books featured. Really looking forward to Irene and Charles's new book as well as LP Salas's! Thanks for the interview, Carol and Michelle.

  15. Another great interview and an intriguing challenge! I so enjoyed reading about all these books and was delighted to see so many Poetry Friday poets included. What fun! Thanks, Carol and Michelle!

  16. Lovely interview. I can't wait to get to the books featured here, especially Can I Touch Your Hair? Thanks for this and for the challenge.

  17. What an interesting and informative interview, Michelle. So many of the featured books are by Poetry Friday poets. Big congratulations to Carol and these wonderful poets. (Now I'm off to add these books to my list for the library.) November should be a beautiful month!

  18. Thanks for such a good interview with such a smart editor. So many interesting books on the way, too. Thank you.

  19. What glorious books you feature here and such a fascinating interview with Carol. Now I have more books to look for and enjoy!

  20. Thank you, Carol, for allowing Michelle to shine her spotlight on you!

    I immediately put Citizen on hold at the library -- can't wait to read it!

    My wheels are already spinning for this month's challenge...

  21. What a terrific interview. Carol has worked on (and continues to create) so many fantastic books. I'm feeling quite inspired.

  22. What wonderful books Carol has created with the help of our PF friends. Very inspiring. I'm doing NaNoWriMo. I like the challenge. It's something I do a lot, in fact. Would you be up for me using a recent one of mine from when I hosted PF? The one with the mystery beetle? Here's the link:
    I can guarantee that my first reaction wasn't to find him a welcome guest, but his stillness let me grow to see his beauty. I find I'm always growing in this process of finding beauty in odd places. XOXO

    1. Sure, Brenda. Feel free to put your mystery beetle poem on the padlet. Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

  23. Thanks Michelle, for sharing Carol Hinz and the rich collection of books she's edited by many very well known poets here; I'm looking forward to all! The beauty in haiku and poetry, finding star-touched words to describe a sea, shines through her work!

  24. What a beautiful package of a post! There's such a wonderful blend of warmth and power in these books. So glad I got here earlier this month to "meet" Carol! Thanks, Michelle.

  25. such an amazing collection of books you helped bring to life I noticed a few that I have on my book shelves thank you for sharing your journey with all of us

  26. I've been on the road but bookmarked this in my head to come back to... So, I'm late to the party, but delighted to still find all this wonderfulness! So proud to know several of these authors - the world needs EACH of these books. Thank you, Carol and Michelle, for this fulsome post.

  27. What an insightful, inspiring interview! Thank you, Michelle and Carol, for this rich post!

  28. So nice to "meet" you in this interview, Carol! I've recently been reading many of the books mentioned here and think Millbrook is a fascinating imprint. I especially love the "Water Can Be" series for its simplicity yet depth! Bravo!

  29. Finally coming back to read this--thanks Michelle and Carol for the wonderful interview!