Although I’m dreadfully behind on responding to them, there are few things as exciting as having queries show up in KWiL’s inbox. And sometimes we don’t just get stories, we get ART.

Months ago we got a submission from an Author/Illustrator based in Portland. She was querying us as an artist. We clicked on the link to her portfolio and, well, WOW. I immediately thought, “There’s something reminiscent of Quentin Blake (the artist for many of Roald Dahl books) here…I wish we had a chapter book ready for her to illustrate.” But at the time, we didn’t. And unfortunately we didn’t need anybody for a picture book, either. We let her know that while we loved her work, we were short on projects, and that we’d be in touch as soon as we had one.

A few months after receiving Julia’s query, we connected with an independent sales company (more on this soon) and secured what every independent publisher dreams of during the first year: sales rep.

With the knowledge that our books could and would reach a broader audience of readers, we set out to expand our list.

I immediately thought of Julia and her art.

I wrote her, saying something like, “We’re going to need illustrators for chapter books, and we’d love to work with you. AND, do you have any manuscripts of your own to share?”

She sent us Don’t Watch Me Eat, which we have tentatively renamed Don’t Watch Me Eat, Babushka, and now I wasn’t just in love with Julia’s art, I was in love with her writing.

Wow. Again.

In less than 2,000 words Julia had captured a story that is loosely based on her own Babushka and her own childhood growing up in the Soviet Union.

Her story opens like this: “Babushka gets up while the streets of Moscow are still dark and empty. The dough is ready. Time to roll it.”

And goes to include lines as delicious as this: “Babushka sits on my bed and nestles the breakfast tray on my blanket. The rugelach straight out of the oven are hot, crispy and buttery and speckled with poppy seeds.”

And this: “Babushka lays plates on the table. The pungent salty fish, herring, is cleaned, filleted, sprinkled with oil and chopped dill and served with boiled potatoes.”

Woven through mouth-watering descriptions is a story set in 1970s Moscow that brings to life Russian and Jewish culture, misunderstandings between generations in the same family, and ultimately, the relationship between a young girl and her Babushka. As Julia writes, the story, “…celebrates great love binding generations of women. It gives the reader a chance to immerse him/herself in a different time, in a different culture, whose customs, ideology, belief system and grocery lists were very different; a chance to discover the universal themes of family love, love expressed through cooking and sharing food, and of a wonderful gift of empathy.”  This is a story that kids will want to read again (and again, and again).

So, YES, we are thrilled to announce that we have signed with Julia Karlinsky for the publication of her picture book, Don’t Watch Me Eat, Babushka, coming to a bookstore, or library, or school near you Spring of 2020.

I’d also love to share Julia’s bio:

Julia Karlinsky was born in Moscow, Russia. She was privileged to have two incredible grandmothers, one a bookseller and the other an awesome cook. The fortunate future Ms. Karlinsky had an easy access to bundles of great books and piles of terrific food. Grownup Ms. Karlinsky had tried many occupations and found them all immensely satisfying. She was a costume and set designer, mural painter, art teacher, co-owner of a electric vehicle conversion shop and a Russian interpreter, as well as an illustrator for If War Were published by the Gumboot Books Publishing.

One day, she sat down and wrote a list of things she loved. The first entry on her list was ‘my grandma’s cooking,’ which became a subject of her first picture book. She and her family now live in Portland, Oregon.

She is a member of SCBWI and an illustrator for 2014 SCBWI Oregon Conference Poster.

To learn more about Julia, please visit her website.

And here are some initial sketches for the book, copyright Julia Karlinsky: