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Celebrate Valentine's Day with Diana Murray!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Valentine's Day is a day filled with love, friendship, and sometimes insanely cute and stinky skunks. Master of rhyme, Diana Murray, is with us today sharing her new early reader, Love Stinks (illustrated by Gal Weizman). When a skunk finds everyone around him is falling in love, he looks for love himself. As you can imagine, that's pretty challenging for a skunk. Want to know more about Diana's new book, Love Stinks, PLUS want a chance to win your very own copy? Read on...

Q: Hi, Diana! Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit. I’m thrilled to have you back and hear all about your Step into Reading Graphic Novel, Love Stinks! For those who may have missed it, Diana was featured in our Trick-or-Treat event in October. Click here for her fun interview and a look at her spooktacular books!

Lynne Marie and I both bought Love Stinks! as soon as it released and are big fans, BTW. It's such a cute love story. Can you share a little bit about how you got into writing for Random House’s Step Into Reading books?

A: Thank you so much, both of you! :) I sent a different early reader manuscript to the editor at Random House via my old agent back in 2015. It was an exclusive submission. The editor wrote back that she really liked the voice and the writing itself, but she felt the concept was "too quiet". She said she'd be happy to look at something else that was more "commercial". She said it needed to "leap off the shelf" and that it would have to compete with their licensed characters (such as stories about Barbie and Superman, etc.). So I went back to the drawing board and came up with Pizza Pig (originally titled "Pizza Dog") and Double the Dinosaurs. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she liked both! The offer for Pizza Pig came first, and the Double the Dinosaurs offer came a bit later, as I recall. Pizza Pig released in 2018 and Double the Dinosaurs released in 2020. I submitted Love Stinks! in 2019 and was excited that she liked that, as well! But there were some delays, partially because of some internal changes in Random House's different departments. I hope to submit another early reader soon. I love this genre!

Q: Love Stinks! follows an adorable skunk that’s looking for love. What makes this an excellent read for younger readers?

A: I wrote this text with early readers in mind. That means the story employs short, simple sentences (in this case, often only two words long!); lots of repetition; lots of rhymes to help readers anticipate what comes next; lots of easy sight words; and picture clues to help kids read unfamiliar words.

Q: What can readers expect to see when flipping through the pages of your new book? Can you share your favorite spreads with us?

A: A skunk goes all over town, seeing other animals paired off, and wondering "where is true love?" and "where is my love?". The illustrator, Gal Weizman, did a great job incorporating loads of humor, such as fleas sipping straws on a dog, bats playing video games upside down, and bees exchanging a "Bee Mine" heart candy. Readers can also expect to see all kinds of love depicted and the inclusion of gender-neutral characters (such as Skunk and the mate that Skunk eventually finds).

*Everyone: Check out these amazing rhymes and graphics! - HM

Q: How does the format in Love Stinks! differ from some of the picture books you’ve written?

A: This is my first book in "comic" form. It was the editor's idea to turn it into a comic reader and I think it turned out great.

Q: Of course, we can’t forget Groggle’s Monster Valentine (illustrated by Bats Langley), another favorite book of mine about a very hungry monster on Valentine’s Day!

"Groggle has been up all night making a Valentine’s Day card. This isn’t just any Valentine, though, and it has to be perfect—it’s for Snarlina, his beast friend in the whole wide world.

Searching in the dark forest, he finds just the right heart-shaped leaves. He collects some bog slime and squirts everything he wants to say in bold, gooey letters. Groggle’s creation looks horribly good. But there’s just one problem—gobble, crunch, crunch, slurp! He has a monster appetite!"

What makes both of your stories the perfect read for the season?

A: Skunk and Groggle are peas in a pod! I think they'd be the best of friends. They both like stinky things but they're both sweet on the inside. Both of these stories are funny, kind of gross, and appealing even to kids who don't like traditional, saccharine Valentine's books.

Thanks for joining us again, Diana! We loved getting a peek inside your new book (and at Groggle, too)!

Diana is offering a very sweet treat for Valentine's Day - a chance to win a copy of Love Stinks!

Giveaway Details: To enter to win a copy of Love Stinks, leave a comment below and let Diana know why you're excited to read it! If you share this post on social media, let us know that too (for an extra entry into the raffle). The winners will be announced on Sunday, February 12th, just in time for Valentine's Day.

*Note: books will be shipped in the US only.

Bonus: Those who leave a comment on all Valentine's Day Bash posts will be eligible to win one (1) of five (5) Rate Your Story Speed Passes, that are doubly sweet. They'll contain feedback from your hosts Heather Macht and Lynne Marie!

About Diana Murray:

Diana Murray is the author of over twenty children's books, including Jr. Library Guild selections like CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown 2016) and GOODNIGHT, VEGGIES (HMH/Clarion, 2020), as well as the bestselling UNICORN DAY series (Sourcebooks), and award-winning early readers like PIZZA PIG (Step-into-Reading/Random House, 2018). Diana grew up in New York City and still lives nearby with her husband, two children, and a dancing dog.

For more about Diana, check out the below links:

Twitter: @DianaMWrites

Instagram: @dianamurrayauthor

To purchase Diana's books on Amazon, or to leave a review, click here.



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