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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Part 7 (Final Summary of my SEA MONKEY & BOB Book Tour): Final Thoughts, Most Interesting Question I Was Asked By A Young Reader, Answers To Frequently Asked Questions

BOOK TOUR NAVIGATIONPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4  - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Back to main Sea Monkey & Bob Bonus Page

With students at the Friends School Of Atlanta.

Before, during and after my book tours, I tend to be asked the same sort of questions about basic logistics as well as other topics, so here are some answers to some of the more frequently asked questions:

Q. How did you get your book tour? Have you been on one before?

My publisher, Simon & Schuster Children's, asked me to go on the book tour. This is my third. The first was to celebrate the launch of Naked! in NYC and MA (read my Naked! book tour report here) and the second was in IL, NC and NJ for the launch of my first solo picture book, Where Are My Books? (read my Where Are My Books? book tour report here).

With Hannah, Justin and Terra at Little Shop Of Stories (Decatur, GA).

Q. Who paid for the book tour? Do you get paid for your school visits?

Simon & Schuster paid for everything (thank you, S&S!).

No, I did not get paid for my school visits. I am fine with this. In fact, if I had been paid, I think it would have made things a lot more complicated for me in terms of being a Canadian travelling to the U.S. on business. Just in case I ended up being grilled at the border, I always asked my publisher for a letter making it clear why I was in the U.S. and that I wasn't being paid outside of expenses incidental to the visit. Thus far, I've never had to produce the letter and have had no problem. And I always tell the truth when entering the U.S., saying I'm there on business. Having a Nexus card helps, I think. See my other prep tips for writers and illustrators going on book tours.

Talking to students at The Heritage School.

Q. Do you contact the schools in advance about details? Or does someone organize it for you?

As I mentioned in an earlier book tour report post, my publicist at Simon & Schuster (Katy Hershberger) reaches out to booksellers in each area. What I understand is that S&S has relationships with booksellers that already have good relationships with local schools. The booksellers are the ones who contact the schools about my visit, arranging dates/times, working out details. They send that info to Katy, and Katy compiles everything into an itinerary along with my flight and hotel bookings, and that gets sent to me.

Q. How are locations chosen? Why did you end up touring through the Southern states this time, for example?

I'm not sure. I'll try find out an answer and post it here if I do. 

S&S did ask me for a list of schools with whom I've done Skypevisits a while back, to help with planning.

Q. I notice you hardly had any public bookstore events. Why not?

The K-2nd grade crowd would be in school during the daytime and are also likely to be too tired/restless for an evening event. I had two storytime events at bookstores during my book tour. The first was mainly attended by preschoolers (including some adorable babies!). The second was attended briefly by one little boy and his mom; the boy read Sea Monkey and Bob to ME (I was very impressed) but then had to leave right after. Both were a lot of fun!

It made more sense for me to do more school visits and fewer bookstore visits, with the limited time I had.

I'm sure it's a different story with super-famous authors and illustrators, of course! :-)

Q. What was the most interesting question you got asked during Q&A?

While I love it when students ask prepared questions (because then they tend to be questions and not comments :-)), I love the spontaneity of unprepared Q&A....I never know what kids are going to ask me.

The most interesting question I got asked this time: "Where do you come from?"

My immediate answer was "Toronto in Canada" but as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized that the student was probably asking about my ethnicity. This was also asked in a school where most of the students were white, with very few Asians.

So after I answered the student's question, I asked the kids my own question, "Who knows where Toronto, Canada is?" A few hands went up, so I picked one.

The child's answer: "In China!"


His answer helped me appreciate the difference in racial diversity and the awareness thereof in different geographic locations. Toronto, for example, is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with 140 languages and dialects spoken, with just over 40% of Torontonians speaking a language other than English or French at home. When I get on the subway in Toronto, chances are good that at two-thirds of the other people in my subway car are non-white and that I'll be hearing a couple other languages being spoken during my commute. I love this so much.

For those who are wondering: although there were relatively few Asians in many schools I visited in my book tour through the Southern states, I never encountered any problems. Everyone was super-friendly and welcoming.

I did have a few of my friends express concern for me before the book tour, travelling to the U.S. in today's political climate, including one of my Asian friends (like me, he was born in North America though his ancestry is Japanese) who has experienced racial insults from a stranger who cited Trump as his excuse.

My own experience? Every single person I met made me feel welcome. The questions from those students I mentioned earlier were innocent and probably came from the simple fact that they just didn't see people who looked like me day-to-day. And this made me appreciate the importance of showing diversity in children's books, helping young people avoid making blanket assumptions about a person because of their race or culture.

One of things I love about young readers is their curiosity and open-mindedness. As a book creator, it makes me feel even more responsibility in choosing which stories to tell and how to tell them.

Q. Did you get permission from your media escort to share her poem?

Yes, I did! As I mentioned in my Jackson, MS report, I had such fun conversations with Pam McCollough and she ended up writing a poem for me afterward. Here it is:



by Pam McCollough


A writer/illustrator came down from the North

On a book tour she set forth.


At the schools, she was met with art and a smile

Because in the South, that's always the style.


And the food, oh the food, she found in the South

Fried chicken, okra, turnip greens just melt in your mouth!


Then came that double chocolate fudge Coca-Cola cake

Her taste buds danced when the first bite she did take!


Her new friend, Pam, was funny and smart

No doubt now Debbie is Southern at heart!


Written with love for my new friend, Debbie Ohi. Please come back and visit again! - Pam McCollough


Q. You keep mentioning your media escorts. What exactly do media escorts do? 

I haven't always had a media escort but when I do, they make my life SO much easier on book tours.

My media escorts (with one exception, and if you've been reading my book tour reports you'll know which day I'm talking about) helped keep me on schedule, got me to places on time, made sure I have enough to eat, took photos of my events, gave me background about the people and places I would be encountering. They helped with last-minute logistical problems, saved me from potential embarrassing moments, boosted my spirits and provided companionship through what was often a very busy and tightly scheduled day.

With media escort, Elizabeth Lenhard, in Decatur, GA.

Having a good media escort enabled me to be at my best for the schools and their young readers.

Also see my thoughts on media escorts in this blog post instalment, in answer to the question "What did you love most about having media escorts during your book tour?"

Q. Are book tours worth it?

It depends on who's asking, and their expectations. For me, they are absolutely worth it.

I know that book tours are a rare animal these days, and I can understand why. It costs the publishers a lot of money for the flights, hotel, media escorts, other author expenses PLUS all the time that publicist needs to spend organizing and making bookings, doing the back-and-forth with the author and booksellers, then following up.

At Books & Books in Miami, FL.

I signed quite a few books during my book tour, but I have no idea how that number weighs against what the publisher ends up making as a result. 

What I believe is the real value of these book tours (but keep in mind this is just my own opinion based on my own experience):

- Meeting an author/illustrator in person can affect a young reader in so many ways. They may be more motivated to read, to write, to illustrate, to consider becoming a writer or illustrator when they grow up. I grew up in the suburbs of Toronto and neither my grade school nor my high school ever had any visits from professional authors or illustrators. Nevertheless, I did seek out my favourite authors' autographs via snailmail and self-addressed stamped envelopes, and was THRILLED whenever they wrote back. It made me feel as if I had a personal connection with that author, and that affected me deeply as a young reader and writer.

- Book tours help establish and/or strengthen relationships with the booksellers, librarians and educators.

- Book tours help promote the book through word-of-mouth. This may or may not result in sales, but I do think it helps make more people aware that the book exists. They may buy the book but they may also be motivated to borrow the book from the library, read the book to their students or young readers at home.

- Book tours help establish and/or strengthen awareness of the author/illustrator and her other work. Some bookstores ordered in my other picture books, not just Sea Monkey & Bob. Some librarians and teachers re-read or read my other books to their students before my visit in addition to Sea Monkey & Bob.

For me, the book tours are definitely worth the time. I get inspired all over again when I talk to young readers. I learn more about what booksellers, educators, librarians and the kids are excited about reading. I also find I'm gaining more confidence as a public speaker; I was TERRIFIED in the beginning. I learn new things every book tour that will make the next one (if there is a next one --- I never ever take this for granted!) go more smoothly.

Photo: Dorian Cirrone.

Q. You posted earlier about travelling with just carry-on and packing tips. Was there anything you were especially happy to have with you? Was there anything you wish you had left behind?


- Lightweight rain jacket. Almost didn't take this, but was very glad to have it in Raleigh, NC where it rained heavily all the time. Also found it handy to spread on less-than-clean surfaces when I needed to kneel or sit, or for temporarily putting other stuff.

- Extra signing pens. I kept leaving them at bookstores and schools.

- A USB stick as a backup for my presentation, containing: (1) static images stored in a folder, (2) Keynote format, (3) Powerpoint format and (4) PDF. I had to use this twice when all other tech failed and my laptop wouldn't connect properly to the school projector.

- Spare ziploc bags. Great for dumping small stuff in, storing half-eaten granola bars, an extra protection for carrying tubes of stuff (shampoo, moisturizer etc.) that might leak during flights.

- Hand sanitizer.

- Portable charger (I use an Anker portable charger). I used this at least once a day, especially when constantly on the go without any time to use available power outlets. Sometimes I avoided the latter anyway, because I was worried about forgetting that I had a device plugged into a bookstore or school power outlet before I left.


- Neck pillow. Flights were all too short to make it worth pulling out, and I could have saved some space.

- My dress with the shorter skirt. It was super-comfy and great during hotter weather, but I found that since I was doing a lot of crouching and kneeling and hurried unpacking/packing on school auditorium floors and airports...awkward with a short skirt. 

With students at Fred A. Olds Elementary

Q. What was your favorite moment of your book tour?

My heartmelt moment was when a little girl at Fred A. Olds Elementary in North Carolina said to me in wonder, after I handed over her signed book, "You mean I get to keep this book FOREVER?" It was all I could do to not cry.

Q. What is your biggest takeaway from the book tour?

To the booksellers, librarians and educators who work with young readers: THANK YOU. I continue to be in awe of those on the front lines, who put so much effort and thought into helping instill a lifelong love of reading in young people, who are constantly seeking out new ways of inspiring young readers.

You are my heroes.


Thanks again to Simon & Schuster Children's, Quail Ridge Books (NC), Little Shop Of Stories (GA), Books & Books (FL), Parnassus Books (TN) and Lemuria Books (MS) for making it possible for me to visit Fred A. Olds Elementary, Partnership Elementary, Friends School Of Atlanta, The Heritage School, Silver Ridge Elementary, Sunny Isles Beach K-8, Battle Ground Academy, Julia Green Elementary, Rouse Elementary and Madison Avenue Elementary!

And special thanks to Aaron Reynolds for writing Sea Monkey and Bob! I hope we get to work together again.

BOOK TOUR NAVIGATIONPart 1 (Prep, packing tips) - Part 2 (Raleigh, NC) Quail Ridge Books, Fred A. Olds Elementary, Partnership Elementary - Part 3 (Decatur, GA) Little Shop Of Stories, Friends School Of Atlanta, The Heritage School - Part 4 (Miami, FL) Books & Books Miami, Silver Ridge Elementary, Sunny Isles Beach K-8 - Part 5 (Nashville, TN) Parnassus Books, Battle Ground Academy, Julia Green Elementary, Part 6 (Jackson, MS) Lemuria Books, Rouse Elementary, Madison Avenue Elementary, Part 7 (Summary)

If you were at any of the bookstores or schools above, enjoyed my presentations or have photos to share, or just enjoyed one of the books I've written or illustrated, I would love to hear from you! I also love snailmail; here's where you can send your class letter.


Part 6 (Jackson, MS): Lemuria Books, Rouse Elementary, Madison Avenue Elementary plus Southern comfort food and a poem

BOOK TOUR NAVIGATIONPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4  - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Back to main Sea Monkey & Bob Bonus Page

Welcome sign in Rouse Elementary (Brandon, MS)

My last full day of my Sea Monkey & Bob book tour was near Jackson, MS. I had never been to Mississippi, so was especially excited. Thanks to Lemuria Books, Rouse Elementary and Madison Avenue Elementary for helping to make my Jackson, MS visits possible!

First stop: Rouse Elementary in Brandon, MS. Wow, I felt so welcome and was also impressed by all the wonderful Sea Monkey & Bob student art. Check out the door to the auditorium:

and the art on the wall inside the auditorium:

Above: Thanks so much to Somer Holloway (Rouse Elementary librarian) and Clara Martin (Lemuria Books) for their help with my Rouse Elementary visit.

Love these student drawings of Sea Monkey at Rouse Elementary!

I am always ALWAYS super-touched when I see how much work a school has put into prep for my visit. Thank you, Rouse Elementary!! Just looking over these photos made me smile al over again.

Next stop: Madison Elementary, my last school visit of the book tour. When we pulled up to the school, I was SO EXCITED to see my name on the marquee!! 

And look at the awesome welcome sign:

With Lois Wilson, Madison Avenue Elementary librarian.Thanks to the staff and students at Madison Elementary for making me feel so welcome, especially librarian Lois Wilson.

I also loved the creative Sea Monkey & Bob themed decorations in the auditorium:

If anyone took photos during my presentation at Madison Elementary, I would so appreciate seeing them!

It was one of my biggest audiences - around 500, I think?. When I first began doing school presentations, I remember being TERRIFIED. Nowadays, I find that although I still get stressed about the travel bits (mainly about making sure I am on time), I loveloveLOVE talking to young readers.

From the Madison Avenue Elementary website (I just noticed this on the main page!)

Before I left Madison Avenue Elementary, I had to try out the cozy-looking reading nook in their library:

Next, it was time to visit Lemuria Books!

Fantastic store with wonderful reading nooks and spaces everywhere. Plus so many good books! I was especially tickled to see my friend's debut picture book in their front display area:

SUCH a wonderful book. YAY, CORINNA!!!

It was great to chat with some of the staff at Lemuria, especially Clara Martin. She is SO smart and fun and passionate about books for young people:

She's also a writer! You can find Clara at her website as well as Twitter and Instagram.

And hey look! Lemuria has llamas! There was a Llama Llama day on Indie Bookstore day. You can see a fun pic from the event on their Twitter feed.

I had a bit of extra time (yay! a luxury on book tours, I find) so I had fun with their paper easel. And I bought a Lemuria t-shirt:

My media escort on my last full book tour day was Pam McCollough:

Pam was so much fun, and we had a lot of great conversations about everything from relationships and marriages to Southern cooking to familystuff to life in general. She made me laugh a LOT, and I really enjoyed her company.

When we first started driving, I kept hearing a little musical tinkle sometimes, especially when we went over a bump. It turns out that Pam's husband is a clockmaker! And there was clock in the backseat, waiting to be delivered:

Pam and her husband have been married nearly 50 years! She wrote a sidebar piece for Deborah Ford's book, Bless His Heart: The GRITS Guide To Loving (Or Just Living With) Southern Men.

After we left Lemuria, I asked Pam to take me somewhere I could get Southern comfort food. She took me to  Cracker Barrel near my hotel; the food was delicious! I had fried okra, fried apples, turnip greens (it had bacon bits! Pam says the Southerners add bacon to almost everything :-)), chicken tenders, biscuits and cornbread. And we split Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake with ice cream for dessert; apparently it's a classic Southern dessert. YUM.

Ok, so it may not have been the healthiest meal ever. But I had been SO GOOD about my eating all week and figured I DESERVED IT.

I told Pam that even though I didn't look it, I had some of the South in my heart. :-)

Pam WROTE A POEM FOR ME after we parted ways. It's sweet and funny, just like Pam, and she's given me permission to post it here:



by Pam McCollough


A writer/illustrator came down from the North

On a book tour she set forth.


At the schools, she was met with art and a smile

Because in the South, that's always the style.


And the food, oh the food, she found in the South

Fried chicken, okra, turnip greens just melt in your mouth!


Then came that double chocolate fudge Coca-Cola cake

Her taste buds danced when the first bite she did take!


Her new friend, Pam, was funny and smart

No doubt now Debbie is Southern at heart!


Written with love for my new friend, Debbie Ohi. Please come back and visit again! - Pam McCollough



Thanks again to Lemuria Books, Rouse Elementary and Madison Avenue Elementary for a wonderful last day of my book tour!

***** Continued in Part 7 (Final Summary): Final thoughts, answers to frequently asked questions about my book tour, diversity in children's books, takeaways.


Part 5 (Nashville, TN): Parnassus Books (I met Mary Todd Lincoln!), Battle Ground Academy, Julia Green Elementary and a celebrity sighting

BOOK TOUR NAVIGATIONPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4  - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Back to main Sea Monkey & Bob Bonus Page

Thanks to Ginger Nalley and Stephanie Appel at Parnassus Books for their help with my visits to Battle Ground Academy and Julia Green Elementary in Tennessee. This was my longest day on my book tour but I had so much fun at the bookstore and schools that the energy carried me through to when I arrived at the hotel near midnight (my body time; there was a timezone change).

At Parnassus Books with Stephanie and Cat . Ginger's in the background on the computer and my escort Sherry is in the back on the right.

At Parnassus, I was honored to meet the famous Mary Todd Lincoln (she has her own Instagram account!), the First Lady Of Adorable and official shop dog. She checked over Sea Monkey & Bob:

and then settled into officemode (e.g. Ginger Nalley's dog sling):

Love their children's book section! Including these tiny chairs:

First stop: Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, TN. The school was founded in 1889 and was named for its original location during the Battle Of Franklin in the U.S. Civil War.

Thanks to librarian Sara Williams and Ginger Nalley for their help with this event!

Afterward, art teacher Amy Crosby showed me some of the student art, including these fantastic Sea Monkey & Bob drawings:

Here's a group photo we took in Amy's art room:

From L to R: Amy Crosby, ?? (sorry, I didn't write down her name), me, Sara Williams, Ginger Nalley (Parnassus events mgr)

Next stop was Julia Green Elementary. Thanks to librarian Sarah Parnell and Stephanie Appell from Parnassus for their help with this event! I had a ton of fun.

Thanks also to my Nashville media escort, Sherry Meyers:

Sherry was not only super-organized, but she also was incredibly knowledgeable about the area and volunteered all kinds of interesting history and insights. When we discovered we had a bit of time cushion before one school, Sherry took me on a short drive through a beautiful forested area. 

Also, I had discovered the previous night that I had accidentally take one of the computer dongles from Silver Ridge Elementary with me. Thanks to Sherry and to Laura Deutsch of Books & Books for getting the dongle back to Silver Ridge for me! Sherry sent the dongle to Silver Ridge via Fedex (Laura said we could use B&B's Fedex number). I know I had to pack up in a hurry from Silver Ridge BUT that was no excuse; I should have checked more carefully. I was extra careful the rest of the trip!

Thanks again to Parnassus Books for organizing my visits to Battle Ground Academy and Julia Green Elementary!

Side note:

I saw Peter Frampton at the airport when I arrived in Nashville, TN! Ok, so maybe I wouldn't have recognized him had it not been for my driver, Steve Rempis. In addition to working for Music Express (the car service that Simon & Schuster uses - not the same thing as a media escort), Steve is the guitarist for Incognito Cartel - he gave me one of their CDs! Of all my Music Express drivers, Steve was the most fun. :-) You may also recognize Steve from when he was on the tv show Tiny House Nation.

***** Continued in Part 6 (Jackson, MS): Lemuria Books, Rouse Elementary, Madison Avenue Elementary plus Southern comfort food.


Part 4 (Miami, FL): Books & Books, Silver Ridge Elementary, Sunny Isles Beach K-8 Plus One More Reason I Love Aaron Reynolds

BOOK TOUR NAVIGATIONPart 1 - Part 2 - Part 3  - Part 4  - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Back to main Sea Monkey & Bob Bonus Page

It was dark when I arrived at my hotel in Miami, so I didn't notice the view until I woke up the next morning. Palm trees, woohoo!! Palm trees may be the norm for where YOU live, but they always strike me as exotic and a clear sign that I am NO LONGER IN TORONTO.

Thanks so much to Laura Deutsch at Books & Books Miami for arranging my visits with Silver Ridge Elementary and Sunny Islea Beach K-8! I had a wonderful time.

Image courtesy

It was great to see my friend Dorian Cirrone at Silver Ridge. Dorian, by the way, is the author of THE FIRST LAST DAY, a wonderful middle grade that came out from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin last year. You can read Dorian's advice for young writers and more in the interview I did with her on Inkygirl.

Thanks also to Dorian for taking some photos at my Silver Ridge presentation, like this one:

Photo: Dorian Cirrone.

My media escort on this day had some navigation issues but thankfully both schools were able to accommodate the altered schedule. I also had some motion sickness on the way to Silver Ridge (I was trying to help my escort by reading the directions from her Google Maps printout) but happily, my nausea cleared up partway through the presentation and I started having fun again. :-) The students were SO great, especially considering the late start.

Photo: Dorian Cirrone.Special thanks to Elaine Arnold, who helped me get set up (in a hurry, too) as well as all her other help with this visit. Hopefully our paths cross again. Would have loved to linger and chat. And take a photo! Darn it, there was no time.

Next stop: Books & Books Miami. What a fantastic indie bookstore! I had already enjoyed visiting their Coral Gables location when I was at SCBWI-Miami and looked forward to checking out the Miami Beach location. Thanks to Laura Deutsch and other staff for the warm welcome, plus being so organized. Thanks also to Laura for this photo of me signing pre-ordered books in the store:

We were still running late so unfortunately I didn't have a chance to look around the bookstore but I really want to come back someday, especially after hearing so many wonderful things about this place. You can find out more about Books & Books at their website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Thanks again to Sunny Isles Beach for rearranging their schedule for me. I was pretty stressed by the time we arrived at the school (I hate being late) BUT when we arrived, Jenny Levinson was so welcoming and friendly, reassuring me that everything was ok and that the two sessions had been rescheduled. After setting up, I even had time to relax a bit and chitchat before the Kindergarten classes arrived. Thanks to Laura Deutsch for taking this photo:

With the awesome Jenny Levinson at Sunny Isles Beach K-8.Unfortunately I didn't get any photos of my presentation at Sunny Isles. If anyone out there has some, I would LOVE TO SEE THEM!!! Jenny suggested that I might want to check out the beach/ocean, which was apparently only a few minutes' walk away but ARGH there was no time; I had to leave for the airport and flight to Nashville. Yet another reason I need to come back someday. :-)

In lieu of my presentation photos, let me share one from Aaron Reynolds. One of the many reason I love Aaron: he tagged me whenever he posted something about his Sea Monkey & Bob school visits that he thought I would enjoy. Like this fun photo:

Hundreds of SEA MONKEY & BOB masks that greeted Aaron Reynolds at Borchardt Elementary

 An aside: You can download and print these Sea Monkey & Bob themed masks for your young reader(s) on my Print-Ready Freebies Page for the book.

Tip for children's picture book authors: Do tag your book's illustrator when you are posting something fun about the book that is potentially shareable. Because Aaron tagged me, it was easy for me to find the posts and retweet via my iPhone, even when I was hurrying between schools. Aaron and I made a good tag team while we were both on our Sea Monkey & Bob book tours (and again, THANK YOU, SIMON & SCHUSTER!!!). I love his work and hope to work with him again! And to meet him in person someday. :-)

Balloon based on one of the characters from SEA MONKEY & BOB

In case you missed it, do read the interview for young readers that I did with Aaron Reynolds about how he created Sea Monkey & Bob.

Thanks again to Laura Deutsch at Books & Books, Elaine Arnold at Silver Ridge Elementary and Jenny Levinson at Sunny Isles Beach K-8 for all their help during my Florida visit! 

Here's one of my favorite photos from this day, of Laura Deutsch as we were leaving Sunny Isles to head to the airport. Despite the unexpected changes in scheduling, Laura remained steadfastly calm, friendly and positive throughout. She is amazing:


***** Continued in Part 5 (Nashville, TN): Parnassus Books, Battle Ground Academy, Julia Green Elementary, student art and celebrity sightings.